As the 2020 WNBA season quickly approaches, we look ahead to see what the major story lines will become as the Seattle Storm look to recapture that 2018 championship magic in their quest to win their fourth WNBA title. 1. Will Breanna Stewart be able to reproduce her 2018 MVP season after her major Achilles injury? I think by far the biggest question entering the 2020 season is whether or not Breanna Stewart will make a 100% recovery and return to MVP type levels of play after suffering a devastating Achilles injury that kept her out of the entire 2019 season. Stewart has worked diligently for the better part of the past year rehabbing her surgically repaired Achilles tendon. The good news is that Stewart is slightly ahead of schedule with her rehab and even participated in the Team USA exhibition game against the University of Connecticut earlier this week. The results were a mixed bag. Stewart looked great early on, draining a three-pointer on a nice assist from Sue Bird. Unfortunately, Stewart ended the game 1-7 FG from the floor. She finished with just three points, three rebounds, and one blocked shot in 17 minutes. On the broadcast, it was mentioned that Stewart was also on a minutes restriction. This was her first game back so that makes sense. But I do wonder if the Storm will put any minute restrictions on her during the season. Since entering the WNBA, Stewart has played near the top of the league leaders in total minutes per game. But the Storm may need to ease her back in this season. I think it’s a bit unfair to expect Stewie to match her MVP season of 2018 the first year back from this major injury. But the difference between the Storm winning their 4th WNBA Championship or not, might come down to whether Stewart can be 75-80% of what she was in 2018 or if she ends up only being around 50%. If anyone can come back just as strong, it’ll be Stewart. She didn’t become a WNBA champion, 2018 league MVP, and 4-time NCAA champion and MOP (Most Outstanding Player) by accident. She has put in so much hard work and dedication over the years, I have no doubt she will do it again to reach greatness. Lastly, it’s reassuring to know that other WNBA superstars have gone through this same injury/surgery and continued to have successful careers. Most notably, Tamika Catchings, one of the greatest WNBA players of all time, suffered a torn Achilles that required surgery in 2007. Catchings would go on to play an additional nine years in the WNBA, including winning league MVP in 2011 and leading the Fever to their only WNBA Championship in 2012. Catchings continued to have successful statistical seasons until she retired after the 2016 season. 2. How will the coaching staff balance the emergence of Jordin Canada with the return of Sue Bird? One of the best parts of the 2019 season for the Seattle Storm was that it forced several players to step up their game with the loss of Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. One of those players was second-year point guard Jordin Canada. Canada was inserted in the starting lineup and logged nearly twice as many minutes in 2019 (29 MPG) as she did in her rookie season (16 MPG). Canada set career highs in pretty much every statistical category: 9.8 PPG, 5.2 APG, 2.2 SPG, and 2.4 RPG; including leading the league in steals. While some games were better than others, Canada showed great promise in both her ability to score, attack the basket and dish the ball to fellow teammates. None may have been more impressive than a game against the Dallas Wings in July where she scored 14 points, had 12 assists and zero turnovers. It was only the 6th time in WNBA history a player had passed for that many assists without committing a single turnover. While there are many areas where Canada can improve, namely field goal and three-point shooting percentage, she proved that she is ready to take over the reins at point guard when Sue Bird ultimately decides to retire. I don’t believe there is any question about that after the 2019 season. But that’s where things get interesting. Sue Bird has successfully returned from her knee surgery and has been playing with Team USA against college teams since the Fall of 2019. Bird has looked good in exhibition play, most recently scoring 9 points on 3-5 shooting, while handing out three assists in 20 minutes against her former Alma mater Uconn. While Bird is technically an unrestricted free agent this off-season, there is no doubt that she will sign a new deal with the Storm to stay in Seattle. And as long as Sue Bird is playing in Seattle, she is starting in Seattle. If I had to guess how things play out, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bird ends up starting the majority of games, but Canada may actually play more minutes per game over Bird; for example, Canada playing around 25 MPG and Bird playing 22 MPG (with some overlap). This is one of the story lines I’m most intrigued to see play out in Seattle this season. 3. After Natasha Howard‘s breakout season in 2019, how will the team’s offense flow with a returning Breanna Stewart? Natasha Howard was named to the All-Star team for the first time in 2019. Howard won the Defensive Player of the Year award after finishing the season 2nd in steals and 3rd in blocked shots per game. But just as important was her jump in offensive production. She set a new career-high scoring average at 18.1 points per game; nearly five points above her previous career-best in 2018. Howard has absolutely flourished playing in Seattle under Coach Dan Hughes and has developed into one of the best players in the WNBA. Howard proved that she could carry a team to the playoffs as she led the Storm to the 6th seed and a home playoff game. But in 2020, Seattle will (ideally) be back to their full strength and put out a roster that is very similar to their 2018 Championship squad with a returning Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. How will this affect Natasha Howard, who emerged as a bonafide superstar? The offense won’t run solely through Howard in 2020. And she will inevitably get fewer touches; her field goal attempts will likely go down. Without Stewart in the lineup in 2019, Howard shot 15 FGA per game (six more shots than in 2018). I’m going to be fascinated to see how the offense flows for Seattle this season, well-knowing that Howard can take on a larger role offensively, but may not need to with Stewart back in the lineup. Of course, with Stewart coming off an injury, her shot attempts may go down compared to her 2018 MVP season. In 2018, Stewart shot six more field goal attempts than Howard (15 to 9). In 2020, it’s possible we could see it close to an even split (12 and 12). 4. Will 2019 first-round pick, Ezi Magbegor, join the team in 2020 or stay overseas for one more season? Thanks to a deep draft in 2019, the Seattle Storm were able to draft the very talented Ezi Magbegor with the final pick of the first round. Magbegor is a star-in-the-making in her native Australia. At just 20 years old now, she’s been playing professionally for three years and played for the national Australian Olympic team in 2018 during the FIBA games. Due to roster limitations and the fact that she was only 19 years old when the Storm drafted her, Seattle opted to keep Magbegor overseas in 2019, so that she could continue to develop her skills in her home country. This also made sense as the 2019 roster was already filled with Stewart (who hadn’t torn her Achilles yet), Howard, 2nd-year prospect Mercedes Russell, and veterans Crystal Langhorne and Courtney Paris all under contract. Magbegor joined the Melbourne Boomers of the WNBL (the top basketball league in Australia) for the 2018-2019 season. She finished her first season averaging 8.7 PPG and 4.3 rebounds per game. She has improved that to 13.2 PPG and 6.3 RPG in the 2019-2020 season. And her averages will likely continue to go up. Magbegor has scored over 20 points in three of the past four games. If you’ve never see Magbegor in action you can check out this two-minute highlight clip of her dominating in the NBL1 (competition lower than the WNBL). Magbegor shows off her skills including her ability to glide to the basket with her length, her outside shooting touch, and her ability to block shots and get steals. Storm President and GM, Alisha Valavanis, told media last year that the plan would be to have Ezi continue to develop in 2019 and bring her onto the Storm’s roster in 2020. But I’m curious to see if that will actually happen. With the return of Breanna Stewart and the emergence of Mercedes Russell, Seattle’s front-court is already well established. Even if Courtney Paris doesn’t return (more on that in the next question), Magbegor would still be competing with Stewart, Howard, Russell, and Langhorne for minutes. If the coaching staff opted to go with the veterans, Magbegor could end up riding the bench the entire 2020 season, where she would benefit significantly more by playing in the Australian leagues averaging 25-30 minutes per game. The other major factor is that 2020 is an Olympic year. The Olympics interfere directly with the WNBA schedule and foreign players often miss at least a handful of games because they have to leave early to reunite with their Olympic squad. They also miss a lot of practice time with their WNBA teams. Depending on any free agent acquisitions or if the Storm were to take another front-court player in the 2020 draft, I could see them opting to keep Ezi overseas for one more season. However, if Magbegor continues to develop at a rapid rate, she may force the team’s hand and bring her onto the team this season. 5. What direction will Alisha Valavanis go with the 7th overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft and what will the final roster look like? The final talking point ahead of this season is about the WNBA Draft and the Storm’s free agent off-season moves. I’m really curious to see what direction the Storm go in the 2020 draft. With Stewart and Bird returning to an already talented team, there aren’t any glaring weaknesses on this roster. If Magbegor joins the team in 2020, the team will be stacked in the front-court with Breanna Stewart, Natasha Howard, Mercedes Russell, Crystal Langhorne, and Ezi Magbegor. The Storm will eventually need to find a backup point guard for Jordin Canada after Sue Bird retires. But that doesn’t appear to be an immediate need with Bird healthy and ready to play in 2020. If the Storm were to draft a point guard in the first round, I can’t imagine she would get any playing time with Bird and Canada running the show. Assuming everyone remains healthy, I feel the area the Storm could benefit from an upgrade would be a backup wing position (shooting guard or small forward). Either a defensive specialist or a player that could provide consistent instant offense off the bench. However, without an obvious weakness, the team could draft the best player available regardless of position or need. Perusing some of the recent WNBA mock drafts names like Mikayla Pivec, Ruthy Hebard, Bella Alarie, Tynice Martin, Kitija Laksa, Kiah Gillespie, and Joyner Holmes have all been listed within a couple of spots of Seattle’s pick. As we get closer to the WNBA draft we’ll do a deeper dive into some of these draft prospects. But before we get to the draft, we will go through Free Agency. Currently, players are allowed to begin negotiating with teams. Free Agent contracts can officially be signed on February 10th. The Storm currently have four players from the 2019 roster that are unrestricted Free Agents. They are Sue Bird, Blake Dietrick, Courtney Paris, and Shavonte Zellous. Bird will obviously be re-signed and the only question is whether she signs just a one year deal or a multi-year contract. Dietrick likely won’t be brought back with the return of Bird. She was brought in mid-way through the 2019 season after the Storm lost Jordin Canada for a few games with an injury after already playing the season without Bird. Paris, the veteran center, is unlikely to be brought back as her role would be diminished further with the return of Stewart. And would be outright nonexistent if Magbegor joins the team this year. As it was, Paris’ minutes dropped to just six minutes per game falling behind Howard, Russell, and Langhorne on the depth chart. Zellous is the player I’m most intrigued by. She was brought onto the team in 2019 (prior to all the injuries) as another veteran presence that had playoff and championship experience. While Zellous didn’t have a great statistical season, she was able to run the point when the team was marred with injuries and she seemed to gel well with her teammates. They could opt to bring her back for one more season as that veteran backup guard. Seattle has nine players currently under contract, not including Sue Bird. So they likely will have just two open roster spots for Ezi Magbegor, their three 2020 draft picks, and any other potential Free Agents (Zellous or otherwise). If the Storm sign even one new Free Agent then that likely means Magbegor is staying in Australia in 2020 or they’re trading away their first-round draft pick. That wraps up our five biggest questions for the Seattle Storm as we get ready for the start of another season. Let us know what you think and what questions you have before the 2020 season begins!
- Postgame reportsSeattle Storm
(Everett, WA) – The Seattle Storm aren’t done yet. Seattle advanced to the 2nd round of the WNBA Playoffs Wednesday night with a thrilling 84-74 victory over the Minnesota Lynx. An incredible accomplishment in what has already been an impressive season without the 2018 league MVP, Breanna Stewart, or 11-time WNBA All-Star and Hall of Fame Point Guard Sue Bird. “I thought it was a good game. You had two teams that at the end of the season are playing well back and forth but I thought we did a good job of just playing basketball. I thought Minnesota did some things with preparation time, Coach Reeves is a great coach, but I loved the way we just kind of played basketball out of it. Natasha’s not going to have many days where she doesn’t score as readily but they got a lot of congestion to her… so she gets six assists, and they were coming off of Jordin and Jordin got really active and there were times we couldn’t reverse it over… Mercedes dribbles over like a point guard and we played full of action. Our maturity of playing basketball, to me, was part of this [success] and we got great guard play. You have to really like the guard play we played today. I also thought that as the game got close we got big rebounds. Seattle Storm coach Dan Hughes with his thoughts on the game Seattle finished 6th overall in the league this season, which was good enough to host a home playoff game in the opening round of the WNBA playoffs Wednesday night. And in this tightly contested game between the last two WNBA champions, it was Seattle’s home-court advantage that played a key role in securing the victory and moving on to the next round of the playoffs. Minnesota Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve talked about that after the game. “Give credit to Seattle. Three members of an All-Defensive Team and their effort was terrific tonight defensively. Jewell Loyd got them going playing off of their defense. Our defense wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be early in the game. We ended up giving up 29 points in the first quarter, but we adjusted okay. And then we couldn’t score when we needed to when it got close. Seattle wanted to win the game. Give them all the credit in the world. They earned a home game and this is exactly why home games are so coveted.” Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve on Seattle’s tough defense and the game overall Seattle also did something they hadn’t done all season long; win without Natasha Howard scoring in double figures. Prior to the game, I wrote down three keys to the game. The Storm needed to knock down a good amount of three-pointers, they needed to limit Sylvia Fowles to under 20 points, and they needed someone else to step up beside Jewell Loyd and Natasha Howard. When I wrote that, I didn’t envision that Natasha Howard would score just two points in the entire game. Her lowest point total of her MVP caliber season. Fortunately for Seattle, they did get that extra help in this game. On top of Jewell Loyd’s 22 points, the team got huge contributions from their two rookies from last season: Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell. Both were instrumental in the Storm’s playoff victory. Mercedes Russell was one rebound shy of a double-double (13 points and nine rebounds) and played nearly dead even with the Lynx’s superstar center Sylvia Fowles (14 points and 11 rebounds). Most importantly, Russell’s size and defensive presence kept Fowles in check and prevented her from scoring 25-30 points as she has done so many times against Seattle in the past. Coach Hughes praised his 2nd-year center after the game. “We’ve watched (Mercedes) improve the whole season. I was telling the coaches that Sylvia [Fowles] got it going. But the thing Mercedes did really well was not let her get too deep. There was a lot of people all around Sylvia. The journey has taught our young ones a lot…. I’m talking about Canada and Russell… They have learned a lot this year. You can see it a part of the play today. It’s pretty daunting that Fowles is that good, but we’ve done it five times now, so you’ve got an idea.” Storm coach Hughes on Mercedes ability to limit superstar center Sylvia Fowles Of course, Russell wasn’t the only 2nd-year player to come up big in the playoffs Wednesday night. Jordin Canada set a new career-high with 26 points on 10-21 shooting. She was relentless, attacking the basket all game long and blowing by the slower Minnesota defenders. Her hesitation crossover past Seimone Augustus was such a beautiful basketball play. And then there was this one. And we have to show off this ridiculous steal, where she raced down the court, prevented a Minnesota fast-break, stole the ball and tossed it back to her teammates before falling out of bounds. To say Jordin Canada had one of the best games of her career would be an understatement. With performances like Wednesday night, in her first-ever career playoff start, it goes to show why Seattle selected her 5th overall in the 2018 WNBA Draft and why they picked her as the potential heir to the legend Sue Bird. “I thought she did things off the ball that were exceptional. You always think about Jordin taking it and pushing it… her cutting, her relocation, all those subtle things without the ball led to situations where now she scores readily like that. That was key. She’s a player in the game, like Russell, who has really grown in a lot of ways. For her to recognize ‘I need to be pivotal’ without the ball because of the teams we’re playing against….and she was.“ Storm coach Dan Hughes on Jordin Canada’s performance While Minnesota’s frontcourt put up huge numbers with Damiris Dantas (20 points), Napheesa Collier (19 points) and Sylvia Fowles (14 points) and a combined 27 rebounds; it was the Storm’s backcourt play of Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada that were the absolute difference in this game. Seattle’s backcourt outscored their Minnesota counterparts 48-1. You read that right, 48-1. Odyssey Sims had one point in 19 minutes. Danielle Robinson had zero. Loyd’s 22 points and Canada’s game-high 26 were the difference between winning and losing this one. Coach Reeve seemed disappointed in her All-Star guard’s lack of performance in this one. “If I could answer why players do what they do and why they show up when they do then I’d make a lot of money because coaches would want to know the answer to those things. It’s really unfortunate timing because you need one of your top players from the season to show up it didn’t happen for her tonight.” Lynx Coach Reeve on why Sims wasn’t able to get going offensively How the game progressed The Storm came out hot knocking down three 3-pointers and led 11-4 within the first couple minutes of the game. Seattle then beat the Lynx on many pick and roll and backdoor cuts to the basket. The Lynx defense looked a step slow as the Storm got out to a ten-point lead, 23-13. Unfortunately, Natasha Howard picked up her second foul of the game with about four minutes left in the quarter. The Lynx immediately went on a 6-0 run to cut the Storm’s lead to just four. Seattle battled back to put the Storm up eight after one quarter of play, 29-21. Both teams played evenly and each team had big runs in the 2nd quarter. Seattle led by as many as 14 points at one point before Minnesota finished the half on an 11-4 run. The Storm led 47-41 at the half. Loyd was the leading scorer for Seattle at the midway point with 15 points. Jewell made several impactful plays beyond her 22 points in this game. She had three steals. On one possession she grabbed an offensive rebound between three Lynx defenders and was able to immediately draw a foul as she went back up to score. Late in the game, she also managed to snag the ball away from a Lynx player while she was flat on the crowd, forcing Minnesota into a jump ball and preventing them from getting a fast-break play. I talked to Loyd after the game about these extra-effort plays. “Obviously we want to win at home and win in the playoffs. I came into the game with an aggressive mindset and I was very calm and relaxed coming into it. I wanted to leave it all on the floor. That was something that we talked about going into the game. No matter what happens, we want to leave everything on the floor and come into the locker room knowing that you gave it everything.” Jewell Loyd on doing whatever it takes to earn the playoff victory Damiris Dantas played a critical role for the Lynx in the first half scoring a team-high 15 points on 6-8 shooting. Without her, the Lynx likely would have trailed by more than ten. The biggest surprise of the first half was that Natasha Howard didn’t score a basket until the 3:45 mark of the 2nd quarter and finished the first half with just two points. The Storm made adjustments in the second half limiting Dantas to just five points. But Napheesa Collier went off in the third quarter scoring eleven. Seattle extended their lead to 12 points (60-48) on a Jordin Canada layup with 4:35 left in the third period. But Collier’s jump shot would cut Seattle’s lead down to just three points (62-59) that capped off another 11-2 run by the Lynx. The three-point deficit would be the closest Minnesota would get the rest of the way. Seattle was able to execute a beautiful drive and dish play between Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell, resulting in a soft jump hook by Russell with just a few seconds remaining in the third to put Seattle up five (64-59) as they entered the fourth quarter. While Seattle’s bench didn’t play above themselves in this game (17 bench points), they came out extremely strong to start the fourth quarter. Shavonte Zellous knocked down back-to-back jump shots (her only points of the game) and Sami Whitcomb knocked down a three to quickly put Seattle back up ten 71-61; which quickly prompted Minnesota to call a timeout. To the Lynx credit, they never gave up in this game. They trailed by double digits multiple times throughout the game and a lesser team would have easily quit on the road. They would have allowed Seattle to balloon their lead to more than twenty. But that never happened in this game. The Lynx had too much fight in them. “That’s the epitome of our team. I think that’s what we’ve been doing all season. Starting with losing players, retirements, sabbaticals, injuries – they never made any excuses and they just competed. When we get down in a game, we just keep battling so I think it’s a testament to the players and the leadership from our captains. I’ve seen it all season long. We’ve hung in there.” Coach Reeve on her team’s ability to push through adversity and keep the game close Back-to-back low post buckets by Sylvia Fowles cut Seattle’s lead down to four again at 71-67 with just under six minutes left in the game. The home town team would finish the game on a 13-7 run. With five minutes remaining in the game, Seattle had one of their best defensive possessions of the game as they forced the Lynx into a 24-second shot clock violation. Minnesota would commit eight turnovers in the final five minutes of the game, including four possessions in a row. “I think it had a lot to do with our turnovers. We were turning the ball over left and right and I think that hurt us down the stretch because they were able to utilize our turnovers.” Sylvia Fowles on how the turnovers prevented them from being able to take the lead against Seattle While Seattle wasn’t perfect, this allowed them to put the game out of reach and push the lead back up to 13. As the final buzzer sounded Seattle was moving on and Minnesota was headed home. Seattle also snapped Minnesota’s impressive streak of winning a WNBA Championship every odd year this decade. The Lynx took home the title in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017. Up Next The Storm will face a very tough Los Angeles Sparks squad who finished third overall in the WNBA this season 22-12. Seattle plays their single elimination 2nd round game on Sunday at 12:00pm.
(Dallas, TX) – The Storm had already clinched a playoff spot a couple of weeks ago, but it came down to the final day of the regular season to find out what seed the Storm would finish with and if they’d be playing their first playoff game at home or on the road. Seattle went 1-1 in their final two games as did the Minnesota Lynx with both teams losing to the Los Angeles Sparks. Seattle finished 18-16, eight wins less than last season. Which is still quite impressive considering they were without 2018 league MVP, Breanna Stewart, and 11-time All-Star Sue Bird. Coach Dan Hughes was asked about his team’s overall performance without two superstars this season. “Well I think what you have is you had other people really step up. And I think defensively, we’ve been able to lean on that certain periods as we grew at others. You’ve got Jordin and Mercedes Russell, which, to me, are candidates for Most Improved Player. You’ve got Alysha Clark, who’s providing the leadership ‘cause losing Sue and Stewie, that’s a lot of leadership. And then you’ve got Jewell Loyd and Natasha, who are really having good years. Natasha’s really [shown] an exceptional growth, even after a good first year with us.” Coach Hughes on the Storm’s play this season On Sunday, the Storm handled business defeating the Dallas Wings 78-64. Seattle took an 18 point advantage into half time and the game was all but over. They were able to cruise in the 2nd half and despite a late run by the Wings, it was too little, too late. The Storm had three players score in double figures led by Natasha Howard‘s 22 points and nine rebounds. Jewell Loyd had 16 points and Crystal Langhorne added 13 points off the bench. Rookie of the year candidate Arike Ogunbowale continued her impressive scoring stretch with a game-high 25 points. Isabelle Harrison was the only other Wings player to score in double digits with 12 points. While Arike still got her points, Seattle did hold her below 30 points which ended her consecutive game streak of 30+ points at four. If she would have scored 30 or more it would have set a new WNBA record for most consecutive games with 30+ points. So Seattle can take some solace in ending that streak on Sunday. Coach Hughes talked about the team’s defensive plan to slow down the superstar rookie. “Well, I think that’s kind of how we play. But we deliberately, you know…watching what Arike’s been doing; you know, she’s seen a lot of double teams lately, but we wanted to be really quick to her. We did not want her…because lately, it seems like she’s handling it and making basketball plays. But I thought we played well today. You know, it was an important game for us because we knew if we could win and LA could beat Minnesota, we could go home. So we were motivated.” Coach Hughes on coming out strong to get home court advantage over Minnesota Crystal Langhorne also talked about the need to limit Ogunbowale’s scoring in this game. “She’s extremely talented, as everyone knows. Yeah, you’ve got to put a lot of bodies at her. Throw double teams at her. Throw triple teams at her sometimes. Make her give it up.” Seattle held the edge in several key statistics, including rebounding (35-30), assists (19-11), blocks (6-3), and FG % (46% to 34%). The Storm swept the Dallas Wings this season three games to none. The Wings finished the regular season with the third-worst record in the WNBA at 10-24. Not terribly surprising after trading away Liz Cambage before the start of the year and playing the season without All-Star guard Skylar Diggins-Smith. With their combined record from last season, the Wings will have the 3rd best odds to win the WNBA Draft Lottery and will likely end up with the 3rd overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. By finishing with the 6th best record in the WNBA this season, the Storm will own the 7th overall pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft next year. Seattle will likely draft the best player available or possibly look at potential back-ups for the point guard or small forward positions. Additional Thoughts from Dallas After the game, Arike Ogunbowale was asked about her thoughts on the season as a whole. “Yeah it was fun. I wish we could have gotten more wins but we’re under construction. Next year we’re going to be really good once we get some of our best players back and draft a nice core player. Whatever happens in the off season we’re going to come back stronger. I’m excited for the future but this year was fun.” On her experience playing both the shooting guard and getting some time at point guard this season. “I’m comfortable in both positions. I’m glad I actually had this year to play point guard, to develop it, and play through rookie mistakes. I think it made me a good point guard so if the point guards need help next year, I’ll be there. I’ll be on the wing too and be available for whatever.” Skyler Diggins-Smith was also interviewed after the game about the season in totality and not being able to play this season. “I’m proud of the team. There was a lot of adversity we had to go through this year and had a change. We have the youngest team in the league, and unfortunately a lot of the vets weren’t able to be on the floor this year, myself included, so everyone is learning. I was proud of the effort that the girls gave. When you come into this league, you don’t really have time to prepare as a rookie and to get ready. Our rookies have taken on the most criticism. The future is bright for our league. Our young players have been able to make a splash and that’s a blessing in our foundation, that’s what we’re trying to do. Like I said, you can only control what you can control but the girls did a good job in regards that we couldn’t really get a break this year. They stayed together as a team, they’re a great group of women, and they play hard all the way until the end.” SDS thoughts on the Dallas Wings’ season Diggins-Smith also talked about the plan to play for Dallas next season. “I’m going to be playing basketball next year. I’m trying to play. I’m not part of the national team just for fun, it really is a huge goal of mine to represent the Dallas Wings so that’s what I’m shooting for. I’m just doing the best I can, and I definitely appreciate you guys. You are a part of the team this year and always show us a lot of love and appreciation. Thank you for your support too.” Former Storm head coach and now Dallas Wings’ coach Brian Agler talked after the game about his first season with the Wings. “Well, usually I’m getting ready for playoffs right now, that’s number one. Apart from that, just the youth of the team. Coaching so many young players, which is refreshing in a lot of ways, but it is also challenging in a lot of ways when you are going up against a really good team. So that is part of the learning experience, the learning experience for them and helping them grow. Learning experience from a staff standpoint about this is who we have got and who we are working with and how can we get better. So, we are looking forward to the off-season, looking forward to getting some players healthy and back, and looking forward to free agency and the draft.” On the differences coaching this team this season His thoughts on Skylar Diggins-Smith and playing without her this year. “I have had several conversations about it. It was a different year for her as well and in a lot of ways it was probably the greatest year of her life, having her child and having a family, you can’t stick a price tag on it. How that will play in the future with her profession, that will be another way she will have to keep growing. She is a competitive person and so I know she is going to hurry to get back.” He ended by talking about his hopes and goals for Arike next season. “Well, I think she has made great strides playing with the ball in her hands. It’s a little bit more difficult and Skylar commented the other day on how much of a change that is going from an off guard to a point guard. So, I would say that is where she has made her growth, now she will go to a different team and play a different role there. Her going through this season, playing with this competition and everything that she has seen, she will have a chance to reflect on a lot of that and then make an improvement, ‘I could have done this better,’ and start working.” Coach Agler on his expectations for Arike Ogunbowale next season Previous games between the Storm and Lynx With the Wings out of their way, Seattle returns home to focus on their upcoming important playoff bout with the Minnesota Lynx. Before the playoffs start on Wednesday, let’s look back at the season series between the two teams. Game 1: Seattle at Minnesota – 72-61 – Loss Seattle lost their first game against the Minnesota Lynx this season which was also their second game of the 2019 season. The Storm were blitz by the Lynx in the first quarter 22-9; which was the major difference in the game. Natasha Howard and Jewell Loyd were the only two players to score in double figures for Seattle with 18 and 13 points respectively. The Lynx had four players score in double figures led by Odyssey Sims‘ 15 points. They also got huge contributions off the bench from Lexie Brown and Jessica Sheppard. The latter tore her ACL early in the season and missed the final two games against Seattle. Game 2: Minnesota at Seattle – 84-77 – Win A tough back and forth battle resulted in the Lynx’s first loss of the season. Seattle used a much more balanced attack with four players scoring in double figures. The Storm’s backcourt led the way with 36 combined points, as Jewell Loyd had 19 points and Jordin Canada had a then career-high 17 points. Rookie of the Year candidate Napheesa Collier led the Lynx with 17 points and Sylvia Fowles added 16. Game 3: Seattle at Minnesota – 90-79 – Win Jewell Loyd was out injured and it didn’t matter. Natasha Howard absolutely dominated this game with 33 points. The Storm got off to a strong start and led the Lynx by 17 points entering the 4th quarter before leaving Minnesota with an 11 point victory. Sami Whitcomb also came up huge with five three-pointers and 15 points in the game. The Lynx were led by the sharpshooting of Lexie Brown with 20 points off the bench. Sylvia Fowles chipped in 16 point as well. But it was the Storm’s hot three-point shooting 12-25 (48%) that was key to Seattle’s victory. Game 4: Minnesota at Seattle – 82-74 – Win Once again the Storm edged the Lynx in a critical game near the end of the season. With this win, it guaranteed that Seattle would hold home-court advantage if the teams were to finish the regular season with identical records, which is exactly what ended up happening. Seattle held a seven-point advantage after one and outscored the Lynx in three of the four quarters. The Storm used an extremely balanced attack with six players scoring in double figures including all five starters. Jordin Canada led the way with 14 points and six assists. Odyssey Sims went unconscious in the 2nd half, at one point scoring 18 straight points for the Lynx and finished with a game-high 30 points. But it wasn’t enough to beat Seattle who defeated Minnesota for a third time this season. Up Next: The Storm host the Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday, September 11th in Everett, WA at 7:00pm in a winner take all, single-elimination playoff game. If Seattle wins, they will advance to face off against either the 3rd seed LA Sparks or the 4th seed Las Vegas Aces. Seattle went 1-2 against both LA and Las Vegas, but would likely prefer to face Las Vegas if possible. The Storm recently got destroyed by the Sparks this past Friday 102-68. They are more likely to face the Sparks as they would need to beat Minnesota and have the struggling Phoenix Mercury beat the Sky in Chicago in order for Seattle to face the Aces in the 2nd round.
(Seattle, WA) – With Tuesday night’s loss to the Connecticut Sun, the Seattle Storm have now lost four out of their last five games. Not exactly the type of momentum you want to have heading into the playoffs in a couple of weeks. Connecticut dominated for most of the game, capitalizing on several costly turnovers by Seattle. The 89-70 loss was the third loss to Connecticut this season as the Sun were the only team to sweep the Storm in the regular season. Seattle dropped another game and now fall to the 7th seed after the Minnesota Lynx beat the Chicago Sky on Tuesday. Seattle continues to struggle offensively with just two players scoring in double figures. Jewell Loyd led the Storm with 18 points on a very efficient 7-11 FG shooting, including 4-5 from three-point range. Loyd knocked down her first three shots of the game which allowed Seattle to get out to an early 12-6 lead. Crystal Langhorne added 12 points off the bench, including a pair of three’s. Similar to Sunday’s game against Indiana, the Connecticut Sun would regroup after a timeout and go on their own 10-0 run to take a 16-12 lead over Seattle. They would never relinquish the lead after that and took a four-point lead, 24-20, into the 2nd quarter. The Sun held the advantage in several key statistics. But the two that really stood out were Connecticut’s 19-0 advantage in fast-break points and their 58-18 advantage for points in the paint. The 58 points in the paint are the most given up in Storm franchise history. Seattle was also out-rebounded 43-30. The Storm also committed more than twice as many turnovers than the Sun (17-8); which included 14 steals by Connecticut compared to just four for Seattle. All in all, the Storm were completely outplayed on Tuesday night. “It’s a big road win for us. Eighty-nine points for us on the road and we didn’t do it through the three ball and not really even through the foul line with 37 baskets made for us. The one that really jumps off the page is 58-18 in the paint. We played downhill, got the ball into the paint and finished around the rim so I’m really proud of them that we were in attack mode tonight. We were aggressive and got them on their heels. We just kept waiting for their big runs because we know they’re capable, but we just held them at bay. On a night when three, four and five (in the standings) lose – that was big for us because we picked up a game. It’s huge for us in the big picture.” Connecticut Head Coach Curt Miller To make matters worse, Seattle also really struggled from the foul line shooting just 47% on 9-19 foul shots. Despite all of these lopsided statistics, the Storm stayed competitive in the first half, trailing the Sun by just eight points 44-36 at the midway point. However, the wheels fell off the wagon in the third quarter. Seattle committed six turnovers in the period, which led to more transition baskets. The Sun would double up on the Storm outscoring Seattle 27-13 in the third. Seattle played well in the 4th quarter, outscoring the Sun 21-18 but it was too little, too late as the Storm trailed by as many as 26 points in the 2nd half. Connecticut was led by Alyssa Thomas who had a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. She was also responsible for getting several of the Sun’s fast-break transition points. In total, the Sun had three players score in double figures and six players with eight points or more. Courtney Williams added 17 points and Jonquel Jones had ten points. “All game our defense was pretty bad. We talked about it in practice but to emulate that in game time with [Alyssa Thomas] bringing it up the floor is different. So that was half the battle.” Jewell Loyd on the team’s poor defense Natasha Howard had one of her worst games of the season finishing with just six points on 2-8 shooting from the floor. Coach Dan Hughes, felt like they’ve relied too heavily on Howard this season and that the entire team really needed to step up their effort. “The thing that has been our story has been what we do as a team. It has been about the next player up type of mentality. That is part of our story, there is no question. But we are at a point as we prepare for the playoffs and try to play well and we need to make sure we know who we are. That’s who we are and without it it’s not going to happen this year. We have to get back to a cohesive offensive and defensive structure that allows the totality of who we are to come out.” Coach Dan Hughes on needing everyone to step up as one unit After the game, Connecticut Sun Head Coach Curt Miller also talked about limiting Natasha Howard and forcing Seattle into several turnovers. “Individually, huge credit to Alyssa Thomas. We think she’s as a good of a defender as there is in the league. There was a real competitiveness between those two. We stayed in plays and we disrupted them. Last game we turned them over 27 times and tonight 17 so in our last two games — against a team I really have great respect for – we’ve turned them over 23 times on average. We just got them a little bit out of sync and made them have to play a little bit more out of system. And I thought we had a good night when they got out of system.” Sun Coach Curt Miller on their ability to stop Natasha Howard and create turnovers The Playoffs are almost here With the playoffs right around the corner, Seattle Coach Dan Hughes is noticing that these elite teams like Washington and Connecticut are really taking their games to a whole new level. And that the Storm have not yet been able to match that intensity and level of play. “These teams are raising it a little bit because they’re playing for position and they’re playing for the playoffs. You’re getting a true look at veterans playing at a very high level. I think we come out with the right intent, but we are learning a hard lesson which is how strong we have to be in what we do with each other when teams like that raise it a notch.” Coach Hughes on the elite teams taking their play to a new level One thing that should help Seattle turn the corner is the fact that they have beaten every single team in the league this season except for Connecticut. The team has already proven they have the ability to compete with just about everyone in the league. It’s just a matter of getting better on offense, correcting their defensive mistakes, limiting their turnovers and playing as a complete unit. “It does give us confidence. We feel like we can play with anyone in the league. Even the last game [against Connecticut], they stole that one from us. We are not playing too well right now but we have some time this week to get better and get back in the gym. ” Crystal Langhorne on the team’s confidence heading into the playoffs Trending in the Wrong Direction One interesting note is that the Seattle Storm are the only playoff team with a negative point differential. The four lottery teams all have a negative point differential: Indiana (-3.8), Dallas (-4.8), New York (-7.5) and Atlanta (-7.6). Seattle averages 74.1 points per game and gives up 74.7 points a game, good for a -0.6 point differential. The 74.1 points per game is the third-worst in the WNBA (ahead of only Dallas and Atlanta) and is 13.1 points lower than the 2018 Championship season. Up Next The Seattle Storm have one more home game this season on Sunday 09/01 against the Atlanta Dream. They then finish the regular season with three straight road games against the Phoenix Mercury, Los Angles Sparks, and Dallas Wings. The game against the Mercury will likely determine whether Seattle finishes 7th or 8th. The Storm may need to go 3-1 or even 4-0 in order to secure the 6th seed and a home playoff game. The 5th seed is just about out of reach at this point as Seattle would need to finish 4-0 and have Chicago finish the season 0-4 in order to climb up into the 5th seed. Ultimately, the lower seed may be what’s best for the organization long-term as falling down to the 8th seed would allow Seattle to draft 5th overall in the 2020 WNBA Draft.
(Seattle, WA) – The Seattle Storm clinched a playoff spot on Sunday when the New York Liberty lost to the Washington Mystics 101-72. This is no doubt a huge accomplishment for the defending champions after their entire season was thrown completely off course before the season even began; once MVP Breanna Stewart tore her Achilles tendon while playing overseas in Russia. And then it was announced that Sue Bird would miss all or most of the 2019 season with knee surgery. Most media outlets predicted the Storm would not make the playoffs. Not only have the Storm made the playoffs, but they still have a great chance to claim a first-round home playoff game. “The season started by reshuffling the deck (after the injuries to Stewie and Bird). There’s a lot of people out there that didn’t think we were a playoff team. We thought we were. It’s gratifying (to earn the playoff spot). We’re still learning things. Things don’t come easy for this team and we try to be honest about that. That there’s going to be some ups and downs to this season. But I’m very proud that we are a playoff team and now we’re battling for the best position we can. The key I want is for us to be playing good basketball by the end of these next two weeks. When we go into the playoffs, we can win on the road. We would love to be at home as I told the team afterwards. If we could earn the ability to play at home that would be a major success for us.” Storm Coach Dan Hughes on clinching the playoff spot Unfortunately, the Storm’s playoff seeding took a huge hit on Sunday as they weren’t able to overcome a horrible shooting night as they fell to the Indiana Fever 63-54. The 54 points were not only a season-low for total points scored but you have to go back to Jewell Loyd‘s rookie season, five years ago, to find another game where they scored fewer than that. Sunday’s game was their worst scoring game since June 9th, 2015 where they lost 68-45 to the (then) Tulsa Shock (Dallas Wings). “You look at the final score and it was just a consistent defensive effort throughout against a team that’s high-powered offensively. (Seattle) does a good job moving the basketball and can create some problems when they go small. I thought we stayed disciplined throughout and didn’t make the same mistakes twice. The best part of that is we married it to some concepts offensively by playing to Teaira (McCowan) and playing off of her. (Tiffany) Mitchell gets a wide-open layup late because they didn’t want to leave Teaira. And (Teaira) is a willing passer. It’s a tough environment to play in coming off of a tough loss in L.A. It was nice to see us bounce back and be the aggressor.” Indiana Fever Head Coach Pokey Chatman Seattle jumped out to a 10-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game after back-to-back three-pointers by Natasha Howard and it was all downhill from there. The Fever would quickly call a timeout and settled down. Indiana then went on their own 6-0 run. Indiana would regain the lead on a Kelsey Mitchell fast-break to put the Fever up 16-14. Indiana finished the first quarter on a 16-4 run to take an 18-14 lead after one. Seattle would never regain the lead after that. The Fever jumped all over the Storm to begin the second quarter on a 9-4 run to go up nine 27-18. The Fever would extend their lead to 11 points before Seattle made a small run at the end of the quarter to cut Indiana’s lead to seven points at half time, 33-26. Seattle shot just 24% from the floor and only had two assists in the first half. The Storm had absolutely no rhythm offensively and their guards could not buy a basket. Seattle’s four guards (Jewell Loyd, Jordin Canada, Sami Whitcomb, and Shavonte Zellous) shot a combined 2-19 from the floor (10.5%). In general, the entire team struggled mightily with their shot. It was one of the worst shooting performances I’ve seen since I started covering the team five years ago as they shot 18-63 good for just 28.6%. This game was a stark contrast from last Sunday’s performance against the Minnesota Lynx where six different players scored in double figures, including all five starters. This Sunday, just one Storm member scored in double figures, Natasha Howard had 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds. She also had three steals and three blocks, including an absolutely vicious block on Kennedy Burke. Howard continues to make a strong case for defensive player of the year. And while the Storm’s defense was quite strong holding the Fever to just 63 points, 6’7″ rookie Teaira McCowan absolutely dominated with 22 points and a career-high 19 rebounds. She also added two blocks and was absolutely a staunch presence in the middle of the paint, limiting Seattle’s scoring opportunities. “I was just working hard like normal. I try to go out and get every (rebound) to get my team more shots and get us out in transition. That’s what I tried to do. That’s what I like to do best – get my guards out to get quick buckets then turn around and we’re back on defense.” Teaira McCowan on her career-high 19 rebounds McCowan looked like everything she was projected to be as a potential number one overall pick; she ended up going third overall to Indiana in the 2019 WNBA Draft. But you can see the potential. She was unstoppable in Seattle on the offensive end, cleaning up the glass, and keeping the Storm out of the paint. I had nightmare flashbacks to McCowan’s Mississippi State college days when she absolutely dominated Kelsey Plum and the Washington Huskies in Plum’s final collegiate game in the Sweet 16 of the March Madness Tournament. “We’re asking her to guard fours. And they started the game with Mercedes (Russell), who has the height with her, but she probably played 11 or 12 minutes guarding (Crystal) Langhorne or (Natasha) Howard, which is really tough because she has to play the angles. And it’s a different set of plays so, for me, that shows her growth. Previously when that happened she was in foul trouble (against smaller teams) so that’s her growth. When she’s not on the floor and in foul trouble, we struggle. You can see her confidence and you can see the players trusting her more and more and wanting her to be that piece in the middle.” Indiana Fever Coach Pokey Chatman The Fever had two other players score in double-figures, Candice Dupree added 12 points and Kelsey Mitchell added 13 points off the bench and was the only Fever bench player to score. K. Mitchell also had the best plus/minus of any player with a plus 16. She also knocked down several key shots in the 2nd half whenever the Storm attempted to make a run. Offensive Woes Per the Storm’s PR, The game marks the second time this season that Seattle has held an opponent to 63 points and lost. This season, Seattle is 3-2 when holding opponents to 63 or fewer points. The rest of the WNBA is 25-3 in such games. This was also the 2nd time this season the team shot under 30% from the floor and it really highlights the Storms struggles to score this season. The lack of offensive firepower is where Seattle clearly misses Breanna Stewart the most. While Natasha Howard, has done an incredible job of filling in for the MVP as Seattle’s top scoring option this year; in general, it just hasn’t been enough. Jewell Loyd has not been the same since returning from her severe ankle injury and continues to struggle with consistency. Not terribly surprising, both second-year players Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell have also clearly struggled with scoring each and every game. You’ll see them break out for 12-15 points one game and the next game maybe it’s 4-6. Playoff Seeding Update Despite the disappointing loss, the Storm remain in the 6th seed and have clinched a playoff spot. However, today’s loss was extremely costly when looking at results around the league. The team right above Seattle in the 5th seed, the Chicago Sky (18-11) and the team right below Seattle nipping at their heels, the Minnesota Lynx (7th seed), both won on Sunday. The Lynx (15-15) are now just 1/2 game behind Seattle (15-14). If the Storm and the Lynx remain in the 6th and 7th overall seeds at season’s end, then they will face one another in the first round of the playoffs. Seattle will want to keep the 6th seed in order to have home-court advantage for that game. Up Next The Storm have a quick turnaround as they face the Connecticut Sun on Tuesday night in Seattle. Seattle will be seeking revenge as they recently lost a heart-breaker as they choked away a seven-point lead with about 80 seconds left in the game on 8/16 in Connecticut. The Sun are the only WNBA team the Storm haven’t beaten this season and this will be the last opportunity to get a win against them this year.
(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.
(Everett, WA) – Now that All-Star weekend is over the Storm are back to work as they returned to Everett, WA, Friday night to face off against the team they beat in the Finals last season, the Washington Mystics. The team from D.C. was able to get a modicum of revenge as they jumped all over the Storm from the get-go on their way to an incredibly impressive twenty-point victory over the defending WNBA Champions, 99-79. Elena Delle Donne absolutely torched the Storm scoring a game-high 29 points on 9-15 shooting. She also shot 75% from beyond the arc (3-4) and knocked down all eight of her free-throw attempts. She also added another game-high 12 rebounds. EDD was one of five Mystics players to score in double figures with the others being Atkins (17), Meesseman (13), Toliver (12) and Powers (12). “We need to be quicker, but [Elena Delle Donne] also made the plays that only the great ones are doing. She’s a really good player. But we had to be quicker to those points and we weren’t quicker to those points. We also had to force her off. Our early work and our denials didn’t really keep her from touching the ball a lot. I thought she was in a great rhythm and difficult to guard. You never want a great player in rhythm and confident.” Coach Dan Hughes on the Storm’s inability to stop Elena Delle Donne from scoring and getting good loks By contrast, the Storm had just one player score in double figures. Natasha Howard was the lone bright spot scoring a team-high 26 points and finishing the game with six rebounds, three steals, and three blocked shots. Jewell Loyd was re-inserted into the starting lineup for the first time since her major ankle injury that took her out of seven games this season. Unfortunately, Loyd continued to struggle shooting just 2-8 from the floor and finishing the game with just eight points. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Sami Whitcomb combined for 17 points off the bench (9 and 8) and Jordin Canada chipped in nine with most of those coming in garbage minutes in the 4th quarter. But as a whole, the team underperformed and fell flat in their matchup against the Mystics. Seattle started the game shooting 1-12 from the floor and managed just three points total through the first seven and a half minutes of the game as they trailed Washington 18-3 with 2:30 left in the first quarter. “I thought Washington came out and separated from us. You look at the last three quarters and I thought [the Storm] was competitive. I thought that in the first [quarter] we really weren’t at game speed. We hadn’t played in a while and it showed. But you have to give Washington credit. They really executed offensively and shot the ball extremely well.” Coach Dan Hughes on the Storm’s slow start Jewell Loyd finally got the Storm going with an aggressive slash to the basket where she was fouled after making a layup. Natasha Cloud disagreed with the call and ended up receiving a technical foul which led to a four-point play by Loyd. The bench came in and gave Seattle some energy which allowed them to cut the Mystic’s lead down to 11 by the end of the first, 23-12. From there, it never really got any better. The Storm were never able to make a significant run to get back into the game. Seattle struggled defensively, which was surprising to see as they have been one of the best defensive teams all season long (ranked 2nd just behind Las Vegas). Basketball is a game of runs, but it was the Mystics that kept making more of them. With the Storm battling to cut the deficit to single digits the Mystics responded with a quick 9-0 run on three consecutive three-pointers. Aeriel Atkins knocked down back-to-back three-pointers and Elena Delle Donne followed that up with a three of her own and the Mystics’ lead was back up to 17 at 44-27. Seattle would trail 48-34 at the half. Once again, the Storm made a run outscoring the Mystics 7-0 to cut Washington’s lead to 11 with roughly four minutes left in the third quarter. But before the Storm could cut the lead to single digits and really get the crowd back into it, Delle Donne went on her own personal 5-0 run. The Mystics finished the quarter on a 17-10 run at that point, essentially shutting the door on Seattle as they led 78-60. “We’ve been having a little bit of a lull shooting wise. As a shooting team, you’re going to have nights when you get really hot like this. It was great to see (Ariel Atkins) get going. We just have so many great shooters and so many offensive weapons so I feel like any night someone can get hot and we feed off of each other.” Elena Delle Donne on the team’s hot shooting The Storm trailed by 10-20 points throughout the entire game and they were never able to change the momentum. A huge factor was that the Mystics shot a blistering 59% from three-point range (13-22) while holding Seattle to an abysmal sub-14% (3-22). The Storm have often utilized the long-ball to their great advantage in both their 2018 championship season and this year. But they just didn’t have it tonight. The shots just weren’t falling. And for every three the Storm would miss, the Mystics would turn around and bury another three in their face. The 99 points is the most Seattle has given up all season long. The Storm have been quite good defensively this year and it’s really been a huge key to their success, but their defense was no match for the red-hot shooting of the Mystics tonight. “It was very frustrating. It was hard for it to work at this moment… I give credit to Washington. They broke us down. They did a really good job of kicking it ahead and doing what they do best: shooting threes… We have to bounce back. We have L.A. coming up.” Natasha Howard on the frustration of the Mystics’ offensive barrage Friday night Mystics coach Mike Thibault was pleased with his team’s performance after the game. “Our pace was great. We set a good tone in the first quarter at both ends of the floor, but we got a little bit sloppy defensively in the second half. We fouled a little bit too much in the second half. They made their one run at us and got it down to 11, but we knocked down another three and our big-time players came up big. We got great performances by a couple of people off the bench tonight. Tianna (Hawkins) was playing well until she got tossed. Obviously, Emma (Meesseman) was really good. When your star (Elena Delle Donne) gets 29 — that helps.” Elena Delle Donne echoed those statements. “A lot of grit and a little bit too much emotion at times. It’s always great to be able to pull out a win like this, especially playing here. It’s always tough and the fans are super loud. You know they’re a great team when you have a lead like that and you still never feel comfortable. Great win and hopefully we can continue to build and get better.” When asked if wearing the mask gave Delle Donne an extra edge (superpowers perhaps), she responded by saying. “I don’t know, but I like the mask though. It feels good and I feel strong in it so the mask might have to stay.” The mask is working, EDD has quickly risen to the top of the MVP rankings in national polls. She’s putting up monster numbers and the Mystics (14-6) absolutely look primed for a return to the WNBA Finals. And this year, I think they’re ready to win the whole thing.