After opening the 2017 season with a back-to-back, the Seattle Storm have a much-deserved break before they return to the court Sunday against the Washington Mystics.
The new-look Mystics cruised in their season-opener, beating the San Antonio Stars 89-74. Their defensive deficiencies, however, were on show Friday night as they fell 99-89 to the Los Angeles Sparks. Los Angeles shot 54.8 percent from the field and made 10 of its 21 attempts from beyond the arc.
With the exception of Sue Bird’s injury, which will likely keep her out for the third game in a row, the Storm couldn’t have asked for a much better time to welcome in the Mystics.
Talent-wise, Washington is one of the best teams in WNBA, but head coach/general manager Mike Thibault will probably need some more time before the Mystics are performing at peak efficiency.
During the team’s busy offseason, the Washington Post‘s Gene Wang reported the Mystics were looking to build a “potential super team modeled after the Golden State Warriors.” In time, that could very well happen. The Warriors, however, weren’t an overnight success.
In the two years before its NBA title in 2015, Golden State lost in the conference semifinals and then in the first round of the playoffs. The trio of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry had all played together for three seasons as well.
The Mystics team Seattle sees Sunday will likely be slightly different from the one the Storm play June 27 and then again Sept. 1 in their penultimate game of the regular season. The longer the year goes on, Washington should continue building more cohesion and chemistry within its squad, and by the fall, the Mystics could be the WNBA Death Star some predict.
For now, the Storm can reasonably be expected to hold their own against Washington.
Head coach Jenny Boucek will have had a week to draw up a game plan to counteract the Mystics’ dynamic offense, and Breanna Stewart shook off any rust from her injury layoff in the victory over the Fever.
Stewart had a somewhat unassuming 15 points in her 2017 debut, three of which restored the Storm’s lead with 1:40 left in the fourth quarter. It was the kind of shot one would expect Stewart to want to take with the game on the line.
Jewell Loyd overshadowed her fellow No. 1 pick. Building on a 25-point game against the Sparks, she led all scorers with 27 points against Indiana.
Offensively, the Storm are looking good. They’re fourth in offensive rating (101.3) after finishing fifth (103.7) last season. Seattle’s defense is another story, which isn’t exactly a promising sign for Sunday with the high-powered Mystics coming into town. The Storm have the third-highest defensive rating (106.0), and they’ve allowed the second-highest effective field-goal percentage (54.1).
The Storm have had a lot of trouble against the pick-and-roll through two games. According to Synergy Sports, they’ve allowed 0.959 points when facing the pick-and-roll, third-most in WNBA. Seattle was eighth in the same category last year.
Because they have so many talented shooters, the Mystics don’t need to run the pick-and-roll too much. But when they do, they’re tough to stop. Entering its Friday matchup with the Sparks, Washington averaged 1.100 points with the pick-and-roll, second-highest.
Emma Meesseman in particular can be deadly when the Mystics opt for the pick-and-roll. Coming off picks, she shot 60.7 percent from the field and averaged 1.292 points per possession, according to Synergy. Going off points per possession, the Mystics have three of the top five players in the pick-and-roll. Meesseman was, while Tianna Hawkins (1.765) and Elena Delle Donne (1.250) sat in first and fifth, respectively.
The Storm will also have to show some improvement in defending off the ball as well to cope with the number of shooters Washington has. Through its first two games, Seattle allowed 47 spot-up jumpers, and its opponents shot 48.9 percent with a 61.7 adjusted field-goal percentage.
The Mystics were already a good shooting team before they attempted to build an offensive juggernaut. In 2016, they were fourth in three-point percentage (35.8) and second in made threes (240). Then Washington added Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver, who individually were third and fourth in the league in three-point percentage.
The Storm have a good offense—especially with Loyd showing nice improvement with her range. Still, they can’t afford to have Sunday’s matinee turn into a shootout.
The Sparks are the best team in the WNBA and they boast the reigning MVP in Nneka Ogwumike. Los Angeles can afford to give up 89 points to Washington and still win relatively comfortably.
Should Seattle do the same, it will likely fall to 1-2.