Seattle Storm Game Review: Aces High

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The Seattle Storm’s new “Big Three”

After being outscored 19-10 in the fourth quarter, the Seattle Storm were able to hang on for a 101-74 win Thursday night against the Las Vegas Aces.

The Storm broke a WNBA record by hitting 17 three-pointers, which came on just 26 attempts. It was that kind of night for Seattle as the team could hardly put a foot wrong. Jewell Loyd scored 20 points, her fifth straight 20-point scoring game, while Breanna Stewart led the team with 21 points.

A’ja Wilson was excellent on offense (21 points), but the Aces continued to struggle with three-point shooting. Las Vegas was 1-of-9 from beyond the arc.

For Storm fans, Thursday night was an excellent contrast from Tuesday, when the team labored heavily to put away a short-handed Washington Mystics squad.

The Game in a GIF

Sami Whitcomb Shot ClockThe game was already over at this point, but this shot was an excellent illustration of Seattle and Las Vegas’ wildly differing fortunes Thursday. The Aces defend well for a possession, yet somehow Sami Whitcomb hits a fadeaway jumper as the shot clock expires.

The Good

  • It says a lot about Loyd’s start to 2018 that she can score 20 points and shoot 5-of-6 from beyond the arc and that’s considered a good—rather than great—game. All five of those threes and 17 of her points came in the first quarter alone. Considering she was on pace for 68 points, putting up 20 on the night might actually be pretty disappointing.
  • Sue Bird now has 38 assists to just five steals in 2018. She flirted with a double-double Thursday, scoring 11 points and dishing out nine dimes. It was too easy at times for Bird, as the Storm used the pick and roll and slip screens to devastating effect.Birdie Bre Slip ScreenBirdie Bre Pick and Roll
  • That extended to Jordin Canada, who had a season-best seven assists. Canada has struggled at times to initiate the offense for the second unit, which has led to possessions where the Storm look aimless and settle for a bad shot in order to beat the 24-second clock.
    Seattle’s bench looks so much better when the team can rely on Canada to find her teammates for open shots.
  • Sticking with that point, the Storm bench combined to score 37 points. Sure, some of that output came in garbage time or when the game was already out of reach for Las Vegas in the first half. But it’s good when Seattle can have the second unit play for long stretches and not expect a big lead to evaporate.
    The trio of Stewart, Loyd and Bird played 24, 23 and 19 minutes, respectively. For Stewart and Loyd, it was the first time they played fewer than 30 minutes, so they got a much-needed respite Thursday.
  • Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had 13 points for the second time this season. For comparison, she had three double-digit scoring nights over the entirety of the 2017 season.
    More importantly, Mosqueda-Lewis went 3-of-4 from three-point range to bring her three-point percentage up to .667. She appears to be settling in nicely as Seattle’s first forward off the bench. Even if she’s just hitting two or three three-pointers a night, that’s another aspect of the Storm’s offense opposing teams will have to account for.
  • Mercedes Russell had a really good game considering she officially joined the team Wednesday. A day later, she played 17 minutes, scoring two points and grabbing eight rebounds. Russell also sent away two shots, both of which demonstrated her length and agility.Mercedes Russell BlockMercedes Russell Block 2
    This was the perfect opportunity for Russell to make an impression on head coach Dan Hughes and the rest of the coaching staff, and the 2018 second-round pick did exactly that. Whether or not she can continue to be a regular part of Seattle’s rotation is another matter. Crystal Langhorne is nursing a rib injury, and Thursday’s game was a blowout after the first quarter. Both factors allowed Russell to have a lot of time on the floor.
    With that said, it’s easy to envision Russell slotting in as a nice change of pace from Courtney Paris, who has been excellent so far but doesn’t possess Russell’s athleticism.

The Bad

  • Wilson has now scored 48 points on 17-of-29 shooting against Seattle. Wilson wasn’t a flat-track bully Thursday, either, as most of her scoring came when she was matched up with Stewart or Natasha Howard.
    According to Synergy Sports, the Storm are allowing 0.983 points per possession on post ups, which ranks ninth. They’re much better on shots around the basket, with their 1.056 PPP good for third.
    Wilson’s strong efforts are potential warning signs Seattle’s defense may have a big flaw.

The Ugly

  • After Russell scored with 6:32 left in the fourth quarter, the Storm didn’t make another shot. Seattle’s 101 total points are even more incredible when factoring in a scoreless stretch of six-plus minutes.
    Noelle Quinn was the biggest culprit, going 0-of-5 in the final three minutes of her 2018 debut.

The Verdict

The Storm were excellent Thursday on both ends of the court, but it’s important to keep the victory in perspective. The Aces are last in both offensive rating (88.7) and defensive rating (110.7) through four games. Las Vegas has allowed 100-plus points in three games already, so a dominant performance against the worst team in the league isn’t quite as impressive when you put it into context.

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