(Seattle, WA) – After a heartbreaking loss to the Connecticut Sun on Friday that saw the Storm choke away a seven-point lead with under 90 seconds to play, Seattle bounced back strong in an impressive 82-74 victory over the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday. The Storm never trailed in this game, getting out to an 11-0 start before Minnesota’s rookie Napheesa Collier would score the first points for the Lynx. “We’ve been playing a lot of basketball lately and… I’ve been around enough to know that sometimes teams respond to [hard losses like the previous game against Connecticut] like the way we did tonight and sometimes they kind of feel sorry for themselves. I’m just really glad they responded.” Coach Dan Hughes on the team responding well after the tough loss Seattle was firing on all cylinders as six players scored in double-figures led by Jordin Canada‘s 14 points, six assists, and three steals. The most promising thing I saw from Canada was her ability to take a couple of dribbles in from beyond the three-point line and knock down the pull-up jumper 15-17 ft from the basket. This is not something we’ve seen Canada do consistently yet in her WNBA career, but the more comfortable she becomes knocking down the mid-range jumper the more difficult it’ll be to defend her. Canada is already excellent at attacking the hoop despite her diminutive size. If she can add the pull-up jumper to her repertoire she is going to become an elite point guard in this league. But it wasn’t just Canada, this one really was a team effort. All five starters scored in double figures and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis also added 11 points off the bench (all in the first half). It was great to see Jewell Loyd look a lot more like her true self; something we haven’t seen a lot of since she returned from injury. Loyd finished the game with 13 points, five rebound, and three assists. She was aggressive getting to the basket and shot a much more respectable 45% from the floor (5-11). “I feel good. I’m getting back into my rhythm. I think that’s been evident in the last couple of games. Even on the road trip, I think we see that I’m moving better and things like that. In reality, I think that I am in the best shape I have ever been in right now because I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and focusing on my diet. I feel good.” Jewell Loyd on recovering from her severe ankle injury Natasha Howard was limited with foul trouble all game long but definitely had a big impact while she was on the court. Most notably was after she picked up her 4th foul with about three and half minutes to play in the third quarter with the Storm up 14 points. The Lynx would go on to outscore Seattle by 10 over the final three minutes to cut Seattle’s lead to just four, 67-63, entering the 4th quarter. Howard finished the game with 13 points, six rebounds, two blocks, and two steals and was able to play most of the 4th quarter which allowed the Storm to really separate themselves from the Lynx in the final minutes of the game. Alysha Clark and Mercedes Russell each contributed 10 points apiece to round out the starting five. She’s on Fire! If you grew up in the 1990’s you’re probably familiar with the widely popular arcade game NBA Jam. The game was notorious for crazy slam dunks and outrageous shooting. The game may be most known for catching “fire”. When the same player scored three baskets in a row without giving up any points they would catch fire. Once your player was on fire you could do anything on the basketball court. Drain 30-foot three-pointers, dunk from the 3-point line, block every single shot, etc. What does NBA Jam have to do with the Seattle Storm/Minnesota Lynx game you might be asking? Well in the third quarter of Sunday’s game Odyssey Sims was on fire. Sims scored 18 straight points against the Storm. She knocked down three’s, attacked the basket, and knocked down the mid-range pull-up jump shots. In total, Sims shot 8-8 from the floor in the third quarter. It was like watching something out of a video game. No other Minnesota Lynx player scored in the third quarter until Danielle Robinson made a jump shot with just two minutes remaining in the period. Sims was very close to tying the all-time record for most points in a quarter of a WNBA game. The record is held by Diana Taurasi who scored 22 points in a game against the Los Angeles Sparks in 2006. Napheesa Collier (16 points) and Sylvia Fowls (11 points) were the only other players to score in double-figures for Minnesota. Seattle also limited them to just four points total between the two of them in the 2nd half. “I thought Seattle played well. Seattle plays as a unit and they execute their stuff really, really well. They play really hard and obviously their fans are highly engaged. They’re hard to play against. Odyssey Sims tried to put the team on her back, but we just didn’t get enough help from other people.” Minnesota Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve Records and Milestones Natasha Howard had two more steals in this game which gives her 63 steals on the season and set an all-time Seattle Storm franchise record for most steals in a single season. “[Natasha Howard] is probably the Defensive Player of the Year. I was thinking who would I vote for, and I’d vote for her. As a coach there are certain things that you watch… you see a crowd rebounding and she makes some tough crowd rebounds… Natasha goes into a crowd and it’s like she’s bigger than she is. Along with all of the great offensive things, I don’t know if anybody has done as much for their team defensively as Natasha.” Coach Dan Hughes on the defensive presence of Natasha Howard Jordin Canada is also likely to surpass the previous franchise record this season as she has 55 steals with six more games to play. Canada and Howard both lead the league in steals at around 2.3 steals per game. Crystal Langhorne also set a record, earning her 1,000th career rebound as a member of the Seattle Storm. She joins Lauren Jackson, Camille Little, and Sue Bird as the only other players in franchise history to reach that mark. Langhorne also knocked down two more three-pointers in this game, bringing her season total to 15, which now nearly doubles her career total from her first 11 seasons in the WNBA (8 made 3’s heading into 2019). Playoff Seeding and Tie-Breakers While the Seattle Storm have not yet clinched a playoff berth this season, they are very close to doing so. The win over Minnesota was particularly important because it gives the Storm a significant advantage in their head-to-head matchup against the Lynx. Seattle won the season-series 3-1 against the Lynx. The victory keeps the Storm in the 6th seed and knocks the Lynx down to the 8th seed. Both teams are unlikely to fall out of the playoff race as they have a significant lead over the 9th seed Indiana Fever (9-17) with less than eight games left to play. For the Storm, they are likely to finish between the 6th and 8th seed, with an outside shot at reclaiming the 5th seed if the Chicago Sky were to falter down the stretch. The late-game collapse against the Connecticut Sun on Friday did major damage to the Storm’s chances of earning the 4th or 5th seed that are currently held by the Los Angeles Sparks and the Chicago Sky. The Sky already own the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Storm which currently gives them a two-game lead over Seattle. The Storm will face the Sparks in one of their final games of the season in Los Angeles and must win that game if they have any hope of leapfrogging the Sparks in the standings by season’s end. Seattle will also face off against the Phoenix Mercury in the final week of the season with the winner likely not only landing the higher seed but also homecourt advantage in the first round of the WNBA Playoffs. As a 5th or 6th seed, the Storm will host an elimination game in Seattle. If they fall down to the 7th or 8th seed they will play all their playoff games on the road unless they advance through the first two rounds to the WNBA semi-finals. Up Next The Seattle Storm get a nice break before hosting the Indiana Fever at Alaska Airlines Arena on Sunday, August 25th at 4:00pm.
(Minneapolis, MN) – The Seattle Storm went into Minnesota and got an impressive road victory Wednesday 90-79. And yet a 4th quarter collapse nearly ruined what was an otherwise exciting win led by a career night from Natasha Howard. Howard absolutely dominated the Lynx, scoring a career-high 33 points on 12-21 FG shooting. She also had seven rebounds and three blocked shots in the game. Coach Cheryl Reeve didn’t have the answers but gave Howard her credit for the performance. “She’s a great player, that the GM traded. I knew that would be a difficult matchup for Phee (Napheesa Collier). This was not one of Phee’s better nights. Natasha Howard is a fast player, dynamic player. 28% three-ball, step-back threes…she was feeling herself. Not a great matchup. Natasha is a tough matchup for most people but, obviously for Phee that was challenging. Coach Reeve (also Minnesota’s GM) takes a shot at herself while praising Natasha Howard The Storm had four players score in double figures in another balanced team effort. The other players were Sami Whitcomb (15 points), Alysha Clark (12) and Jordin Canada (12). Whitcomb also had a career-high dishing out eight assists. Clark also became the 7th player in franchise history to collect 300 assists in her career. Whitcomb talked about getting open to hit her five threes in this game. It’s sort of the way they defend a bit. They try not to, they tend to keep the bigs off a little and they like to keep them in the paint a bit more so if you can really use the screen, and we have some really great screeners, you have that split second, that one second to get the shot off and that sort of suits my game.” Sami Whitcomb on how Minnesota was guarding her in the game and leaving her open And while Mercedes Russell didn’t score in double figures in this game, she still made a huge impact. Russell finished the game with seven points, nine rebounds, and three blocked shots. She also had the highest plus/minus of any player on either team with a +21 rating. This was very noticeable as she did a very solid job defending Minnesota’s All-Star Center Sylvia Fowles. Russell altered multiple shots and forced Fowles to miss, even in single coverage. When Russell wasn’t in the game, Fowles was able to score at a much higher clip. Another major reason the Storm were victorious is that they held All-Star guard Odyssey Sims to just five points on 2-12 shooting. And while a lot of the stats were comparable, the Storm held an eight to nothing advantage in blocked shots. Minnesota also had four players score in double figures led by Lexie Brown‘s 20 points off the bench (more on her later). Sylvia Fowles had 16 points and seven rebounds. Danielle Robinson had an impressive double-double with 14 points and 10 assists. Stephanie Talbot chipped in with 10 points. The Storm never trailed in this game. Seattle started off 4-4 including 3 three-pointers to jump all over the Lynx. Seattle was 7-8 to start the game and had a 17-6 lead just four minutes into the game. Minnesota started 2-2 but then went ice cold from the floor shooting just 1-12 from the floor in their next 12 shots. The Storm finished 4-8 from 3-point range after one and led 26-16. Shavonte Zellous drained a three with about a second left in the quarter. That wouldn’t be the last time a Seattle player would do this. Early in the 2nd quarter, we saw an interesting lineup with Shavonte Zellous, Sami Whitcomb, and Blake Dietrick all on the court at the same time. This was partly because Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis suffered a left knee injury where she landed awkwardly after a jump shot. Mosqueda-Lewis played just two minutes prior to the injury and would not return in the game. She is questionable for Friday’s game against Las Vegas. Seattle led 50-40 at the half. The Storm shot 54% while the Lynx shot just 39% in the first half. The Storm would use a 10-2 run to go up 18 at 60-42 to start the 3rd quarter. Seattle would extend their lead to as many as 21 points in the quarter. Natasha Howard had 12 of her 33 points in the 3rd quarter including a beautiful step back 3 as the third quarter came to an end. Seattle outscored Minnesota 21-14 in the 3rd period. The Storm would take a 17 point lead into the 4th quarter, 71-54. The victory appeared well in hand for Seattle, but then the team completely fell apart for the first six minutes of the final period. The Storm committed seven of their 21 turnovers in the fourth. Minnesota found life after Danielle Robinson forced Blake Dietrick into back-to-back turnovers just by pressuring the ball in the backcourt. The first turnover resulted in a fast-break layup from Robinson to Lexie Brown. The 2nd time, Blake attempted to stop Robinson for scoring and was called for a Flagrant 1 foul. While it was a bit of a questionable Flagrant call. There is a legit concern about Dietrick’s ability on this team. She appears to be lacking in confidence offensively and is extremely limited in her ability to score. This is also not the first time I’ve seen her struggle to bring the ball up the floor when being heavily pressured. And she looked visibly shaken and upset on the sidelines after committing the turnovers. The Lynx cut the Storm’s 17-point 4th quarter lead down to just one point at 78-77 with 4:05 left to play in the game. Minnesota used several of Seattle’s turnovers against them. Lexie Brown was also huge knocking down multiple 3’s in the quarter. The Lynx would never take the lead, cutting Seattle’s lead to just one again at 80-79 with 3:30 left to play. Minnesota would not score again for the rest of the game as Seattle would finish the game on a 10-0 run. Minnesota had 34 points off of Seattle’s 21 turnovers, the most points given up off turnovers since 06/28/2009 in a defeat to the Los Angeles Sparks. And yet, the Storm managed to hang on to win this game. Coach Hughes was proud of his team for hanging on and executing down the final stretch. “You know, you knew Minnesota was gonna make runs at us. I thought we played really well. We made shots. And our pace was very good throughout the game. And then we face a little adversity with losing a couple of players and you knew Minnesota is playing well, and you knew they were going to make a run. And I was just really proud, we didn’t give up the lead, they got it to one and D- Rob had that shot, but then we had a little presence at the end. And that, we’re learning about ourselves as our team has moved around personnel-wise so much. But I was pleased because you knew as well Minnesota’s playing it was gonna be, at some point, a run we would have to deal with and could we come back from it. Coach Hughes during the post-game Point Guard Problems Without Sue Bird the Storm are extremely thin at Point Guard. And it was extremely troublesome when Jordin Canada went down with a knee injury earlier this year. While Shavonte Zellous and Sami Whitcomb have done their best to run the backup point guard position, that isn’t their natural position and their play won’t always be positive. While it’s true that Sami Whitcomb had a career-high eight assists in the game. She also had a team-high five turnovers. Unfortunately, Canada went down with another injury in the final five minutes of this game. She was driving to the hoop and stumbled to the floor. She was either tripped or lost her balance while attempting to drive through traffic. Sadly, as she fell face-first to the ground, it appeared that her head may have made contact with Lexie Brown’s knee. Canada laid on the ground as the Lynx recovered the ball and she did not get back for the entire next possession which allowed Lexie Brown to drain a wide-open three-pointer. Seattle called a timeout and Canada did not return to the game. It is unclear on whether or not Canada will be available to play on Friday night back in Seattle against the Las Vegas Aces. With the myriad of injuries this season and the possibility that Sue Bird may not play at all this season, I completely understand having Blake Dietrick on the team. But I do believe that Alisha Valavanis should look to add another point guard with greater upside in the future and that could be a priority for the 2020 WNBA Draft. Lexie Brown and My Confusion with the Connecticut Sun I honestly don’t understand it. The Connecticut Sun have been a relatively successful organization in recent years, finishing as the 4th overall seed the past two seasons. They currently own the second-best record in the WNBA this season. But more than anything else I associate the team as one that has given up on some talented players. In 2015, they drafted Elizabeth Williams 4th overall. Then they barely played the 6’3″ center out of Duke during her rookie year. The Sun would then trade Williams before the 2016 season to the Atlanta Dream. Williams would go on to win the WNBA’s Most Improved Player of the Year Award in 2016 averaging nearly 12 points, over eight rebounds and nearly 2.5 blocks per game (2nd best in the WNBA). Williams would be named to the WNBA All-Star team in 2017 while putting up similar numbers the following season. And while her numbers have dipped a little over the past two seasons, Williams has still proven to be a high-quality player for the Dream. And I can’t help but feel like we might be seeing the same thing happen again, this time with Lexie Brown. Brown was a highly touted point guard out of Duke entering the 2018 WNBA Draft. It was likely that the Storm were going to draft either Jordin Canada or Lexie Brown with the 5th overall pick and while I’m very happy they selected Canada as that was the player I wanted them to take after watching her dominate the PAC12 her junior and senior seasons. I was still very high on Lexie Brown as well. But Connecticut never gave her any playing time to develop and shipped her off to Minnesota before this season for a 2nd round pick that never even made the Sun’s final roster. And while Brown continues to develop in Minnesota, she has shown flashes of brilliance already this season. She has scored over 20 points a couple of times already and is averaging around 8 points off the bench for the Lynx. She is also shooting over 41% from 3-point range. I’ll be interested to see if Brown improves even more in another year or two and I’ll wonder what prospect the Sun will give up on next. Up Next The Storm host the #1 overall seed Las Vegas Aces and UW’s own Kelsey Plum on Friday 7/19 – 7:00pm at UW’s Hec Ed/Alaska Airlines Arena. 2018’s rookie of the year A’ja Wilson and the 2018 MVP runner-up Liz Cambage will look to continue their winning ways against Seattle.