The Seattle Storm are now riding a four-game winning streak after defeating the Washington Mystics 81-77 on Tuesday night.
Laboring to a close victory over a full-strength Mystics squad would’ve been a nice result for Seattle. Washington, instead, was without Elena Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud, while Tayler Hill is still recovering from a torn ACL. The Mystics had an opportunity to tie the game in the final seconds and force overtime.
Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd did the heavy lifting for the Storm, accounting for a little over 64 percent of the team’s total offense. Loyd was the game’s leading scorer (27 points), while Stewart chipped in with 25.
Game in a GIF
Loyd once again displayed the Clutch Gene, knocking down a baseline jumper with a little over six seconds remaining to give the Storm a three-point lead.
Natasha Howard picked off a pass by Ariel Atkins on Washington’s next possession to seal the win.
- Loyd continues to be on another level this year. She shot 10-of-18 from the field and wasn’t too far off from a double-double Tuesday, collecting a team-high eight rebounds. Loyd is by far the biggest reason the Storm are 4-1 right now, and her ability to create her own shot—and to do so efficiently—is valuable on a night when Seattle is such a mess on offense. It’s hard to imagine how the Storm would look right now if Loyd were her 2017 self and not playing the best basketball of her WNBA career.
- Through the first half, Kristi Toliver had torched the Storm for 17 points. She finished with 20 points on the night.
Whereas Sue Bird matched up with Toliver for much of the first half, Storm head coach Dan Hughes deployed Alysha Clark on Toliver for the bulk of the second half. The results speak for themselves. I mean, just look at this:
Whenever somebody wonders about Clark’s defensive value, just show them that clip.
This is exactly why Hughes emphasized Clark’s importance to the Storm on defense. She can guard the 5’7″ Toliver on one night and the 6’0″ Diana Taurasi the next. Not even Howard has that kind of defensive flexibility.
- Literally everything after the first quarter.
- This screenshot from the play-by-play of the second quarter sums up Sami Whitcomb’s night:
Whitcomb finished with a minus-23.5 net rating, which was the worst on the team, in nearly eight minutes on the floor.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis has supplanted Whitcomb as the first small forward off the bench, and it’s hard to see how that’s going to change anytime soon. Whitcomb is so dependent on her three-pointer—eight of her nine field-goal attempts so far are three-pointers—and she’s not bringing much else to the table. According to Basketball Reference, she’s averaging 3.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists per 36 minutes.
- Stewart is now shooting 20.8 percent from beyond the arc in 2018 after going 1-of-4 against the Mystics. It may seem harsh to be so critical of Stewart after she had 25 points, five rebounds and three assists, and it was very entertaining to watch Atkins immediately regret trying to stop a baseline drive from Stewart.
But the third-year forward warranted some outside MVP consideration entering the 2018 campaign. The bar has to be high in terms of her standard for success. Stewart’s ability to stretch the floor is a big part of her offensive game, and it has been absent through five games.
- Seattle’s bench combined to score nine points (six for Jordin Canada and three for Mosqueda-Lewis). It was a return to the last couple of years, when the Storm would fall off a cliff when their reserves entered the game.
This is the problem inherent in relying on a rookie point guard to run the offense for the second unit. Canada has played well through her first five games, but she has understandably experienced some growing pains adjusting to the speed of the WNBA. Canada had one assist and three turnovers Tuesday night, and she’s averaging 1.8 assists to 2.0 turnovers on the season.
And when you have Mosqueda-Lewis, Whitcomb and Courtney Paris on the floor, you need a playmaker to find players for open shots. Canada fits that profile, but it may be a few more weeks before she’s at the level Seattle needs.
Crystal Langhorne should help alleviate the problem somewhat when she’s healthy enough to return. While Langhorne can’t necessarily score off the dribble, she can make something out of nothing close to the basket.
This wasn’t really a game anybody will remember fondly. Luckily, the Storm play Thursday night, so we won’t need to dwell on the win any more than necessary.