Seattle Storm Game Review(s): Playoff Fever

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When you’re on the drive to a WNBA title

The Seattle Storm wrapped up the second half of a back-to-back Tuesday night, defeating the Indiana Fever, 94-79. The Storm notched a 96-80 win over the New York Liberty to start the week.

Breanna Stewart scored a game-high 32 points against the Liberty, the ninth time she has hit the 30-point mark in her WNBA career. She followed up with 17 points, 12 rebounds and four assists against the Fever.

Natasha Howard was excellent in both outings as well, going for 14 points and 10 rebounds Monday and then 19 points and eight rebounds Tuesday.

Likewise, Sue Bird continued to be a model of consistency, totaling 26 points and 15 assists over the two games.

Here’s a look back at the two victories.

Context-Free Screenshot

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The Game(s) in a GIF

Breanna Stewart LibertyYou basically have your choice of any number of Stewart buckets from the past two days. This one captures part of what makes her so good. She has the quickness to blow past Tina Charles and the strength to finish despite the contact from Kiah Stokes.

 

The Good

  • The #MVBre campaign continues apace. At this point, Stewart could take Bird’s advice and spend the rest of the regular season riding around Seattle on a Lime bike and still win Most Valuable Player.
    The Storm especially needed Stewart Monday against the Liberty. It was an 11 a.m. ET tipoff, and Seattle seemed to be out of sorts early on as a result. The 16-point margin of victory certainly wasn’t indicative of the gap between the two teams.
  • Much like with Stewart, you can insert your typical praise of Howard here. It’s bad enough she got snubbed from the All-Star Game; there’s no way voters can overlook her for Most Improved Player.
    Wanted to spotlight this sequence to show one difference Howard has made for Seattle’s offense. Natasha Howard Decoy
    Natalie Achonwa had to respect the threat Howard poses from beyond the arc, so she stayed close to Howard at the top of the circle. That created the space for a cutting Stewart to get an easy bucket.
    As good as Crystal Langhorne is, she probably doesn’t free up that lane for Stewart because opponents don’t need to mark her so closely away from the basket.
  • Jordin Canada had eight points and eight assists Tuesday night against Indiana. According to Synergy Sports, the rookie point guard is shooting 11-of-18 in transition, and it’s not hard to understand why she’s having so much success on the fast break. Her combination of speed and aggression makes her so difficult to stop in the open floor.Jordin Canada Fast Break
    Canada hasn’t enjoyed as much success when running half-court sets, but that will come with more experience. One moment stuck out Tuesday night. Sami Whitcomb got a steal inside the final 30 seconds of the third quarter and looked to push the tempo. She passed over to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who found Canada. Rather than try and force something when Seattle didn’t have a numbers advantage, Canada brought things to a halt and reset the offense.Jordin Canada Stop
    The possession ended with Howard scoring just before the buzzer.
    A’ja Wilson spoils fans to some extent. She comes in and immediately becomes an All-Star and MVP candidate. Wilson is the exception rather than the rule for WNBA rookies. Some players need a few years before they find their comfort zone in the league. Jewell Loyd didn’t have a positive net rating until her third season.
    Canada is already delivering on defense, and she’s going to be a handful when her offense catches up.
  • Langhorne was largely ineffective against the Fever. She had two points and a minus-11 plus/minus rating. A day earlier, Langhorne was invaluable off the bench as Seattle saw off New York. She finished with five points and six rebounds in 10:48 on the floor and was one of two bench players without a negative net rating. Although Langhorne is 4-of-12 from the field over her last three games, she closed out July by shooting 57.8 percent—almost equal to her career average (57.0). Langhorne looks to be back to her usual self for the most part after a frustrating start to the season.
  • Jewell Loyd’s first points in the win over the Fever didn’t come until the 1:29 mark of the second quarter, and she didn’t attempt a field goal until 5:34 remaining in the third. This was after she had 18 shots en route to a 17-point game against the Liberty.
    You almost wonder this is part of a concerted effort by Loyd and Dan Hughes to keep opponents on their toes. Loyd has attempted the 10th-most shots in the league (389). It has to throw off a defense’s game plan when she defers so much and is merely a decoy for the rest of the Storm’s offense.
  • The Storm are now 12-3 away from KeyArena. Storm PR guru Kimberly Veale noted the team is now just one win away from tying the league record for road victories in a single season. Beyond that, Seattle hadn’t had a winning road record since 2010, when it won its second WNBA title.

 

The Bad

  • Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Storm listed Alysha Clark as doubtful with a left hamstring strain. She started anyway but played just 14 minutes. Clark didn’t look herself, as she scored just two points and allowed Victoria Vivians to get hot en route to a 15-point night. This was a day after Kia Nurse dropped 20 points on the Storm. Resting Clark for Seattle’s matchup Thursday against the Washington Mystics might be the best approach.

 

The Ugly

  • Over her last nine games, Mosqueda-Lewis is 3-of-18 on three-pointers. My condo on Mosqueda-LewIsland is rapidly depreciating in value.

 

The Verdict

The Storm have a 3.5-game lead for first place in the WNBA with four games left to play. It’s pretty wild a team that backed its way into the 2017 playoffs after firing its coach midseason is poised to finish with the league’s best record a year later.

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