Following an ugly loss to the Minnesota Lynx, the Seattle Storm rebounded with a commanding 82-66 win over the Atlanta Dream on Friday night.
Natasha Howard led all scorers with 19 points and added 14 rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks to an excellent all-around night. Jordin Canada chipped in with 12 points and seven assists, while Jewell Loyd finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.
Tiffany Hayes battled foul trouble early on and never found her groove, scoring nine points on 2-of-4 shooting. Renee Montgomery had a night to forget as well, shooting 1-of-6 for three points.
The Game in a GIF
The Dream were 6-of-23 from beyond the arc as a team. Even when they created good looks like this one for Montgomery, the iron was unkind.
- Last year Canada shot 27.3 percent between 16 and 24 feet, according to WNBA.com. In what is admittedly a small sample, she has that number up to 55.6 percent.
Opposing defenses are going to let Canada have a wide-open mid-range jumper until she can sustain this over a longer stretch. Alex Bentley made little to no effort to come off an Alysha Clark screen and get a hand in front of Canada before the second-year guard knocked down a three-pointer.
If defenders have to make more of an effort to close out on Canada, then it allows her to drive to the basket. Not only is she a good finisher, she’s looking more comfortable driving into the paint, letting the defense collapse on her and finding an open teammate.
After turning the ball over seven times in Seattle’s season-opening win over the Phoenix Mercury, Canada has two combined turnovers over the last two games.
Now that the WNBA is slowing down for her, Canada’s playmaking is taking big strides.
- It’s the highest form of praise to say 19 and 14 games feel like the norm for Howard now. Especially with Jessica Breland battling foul trouble early in the game, Howard feasted inside.
The 27-year-old is stepping up to play at an MVP-type level so far with Breanna Stewart lost for the season.
- Memo to Crystal Langhorne:
Less of this
And more of this
Ideally Langhorne can become a reasonably consistent three-point shooter. If that doesn’t happen, then she can still do a lot of damage from the mid-range.
- I do wonder whether Gary Kloppenburg (and Dan Hughes) are considering a switch at center.
This game was a great showcase of what Mercedes Russell brings to the table offensively.
She used her 6’6″ frame to bully Marie Gulich around the basket.
She sealed off the defender to get position inside and found a cutting Langhorne for an easy bucket.
And she peeled off a screen to finish a feed from Clark.
The Storm moved Langhorne to the bench in favor of Howard after one game in 2018. Seattle is clearly contenting for a playoff spot, but the team is in a holding pattern with Stewart and Sue Bird out. The coaching staff has been pragmatic with Langhorne before and it might be worth it to see how Russell performs in the starting lineup against first-team defenses for more extended stretches.
- Clark was excellent in her 2019 debut. According to WNBA.com, the Storm had a 36.0 net rating in her 27:04 on the floor.
“She’s big, she does a lot of things she can defend all the top twos and threes that we always go up against, you know she can make shots, she can pull strips,” Kloppenburg said about Clark after the game. “It was a real lift have her coming in off the bench.”
- I guess we have to start asking if this is by design, but look at Loyd’s shot chart:
Breland picked up her third foul with 4:28 left in the second quarter and was limited to just under 20 minutes on the night. When she returned to the game in the second half, Breland had to be careful to avoid her fourth foul, which almost certainly would’ve meant a trip right back to the bench.
Despite that, Loyd wasn’t credited with a single shot attempt around the basket and got to the foul line only once. She settled for mid-range jumpers a little too frequently.
It seems like Loyd is leaving something on the table by not trying to score inside more frequently.
- Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis is shooting 25.0 percent from beyond the arc and has a 89.4 offensive rating. By comparison, she was a 42.0 percent three-point shooter and had a 98.9 offensive rating in 2018.
Maybe Mosqueda-Lewis’ shooting will improve with Clark back, since she’ll be matched up with second-unit defenders more often. But that will also mean long periods without a natural point guard on the floor to find her open on the perimeter.
- Courtney Paris has played a total of 10 minutes through three games. Her lack of playing time is a bit surprising since Stewart’s injury left Seattle a bit thin at power forward/center, and she averaged 13.3 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, per Basketball Reference.
Whether or not Russell overtakes Langhorne in the starting lineup, she’s clearly Kloppenburg’s preferred choice off the bench ahead of Paris.
- The Storm are 10th in three-point shooting, averaging 25.0 percent, after finishing first in 2018 (37.6 percent). This is clearly a consequence of Stewart and Bird’s combined absences. Kloppenburg can only scheme so much to account for losing two of the team’s better long-range shooters.
Rather than trying to replicate last year’s offensive game plan, Seattle appears to be catering more to its personnel. It’s attempting eight fewer three-pointers per game and getting the ball inside more often.
According to WNBA.com, the Storm had 2,335 total field-goal attempts in 2018. Of that number, 28.0 percent of the shots were inside five feet and 61.1 percent were inside 20 feet. Those percentages are 37.1 and 70.3, respectively.
Friday’s game was the perfect palate cleanser after a bad defeat to the Lynx. The Storm can continue that momentum in the second half of their back-to-back against the Chicago Sky on Saturday.