The Seattle Storm lost to the Chicago Sky for the second time this season, falling 78-71 on Sunday in Chicago.
The first quarter doomed the Storm as they fell behind 29-13, a deficit that ballooned to 26 points midway through the second quarter. In the second half Seattle looked like it might pull together an improbable comeback, but the gap was too large to overcome.
Jewell Loyd and Natasha Howard each scored 20 points. Jordin Canada had seven points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Cheyenne Parker was the standout performer for the Sky, coming off the bench to post 18 points and 11 rebounds. The Storm did a good job of limiting Allie Quigley’s impact, holding her to four points, while Diamond DeShields was 3-of-11 for seven points.
Offensively, though, Seattle simply wasn’t good enough.
The Game in a GIF
The Sky ran a nice inbound play to get Courtney Vandersloot away from Canada, which immediately put the Storm on the back foot. Eventually, Howard and Canada had a miscommunication, which allowed Vandersloot a wide-open look from the perimeter. It was that kind of quarter for Seattle.
- The Storm could’ve packed it in during the second quarter when the Sky’s lead swelled to 20-plus points. Seattle was without two of its best players, relying on an interim head coach, and playing on the road with three more away games in the space of one week.
Instead, the Storm players remained composed. They defended really well, holding the Sky to 49 points over the final three quarters, and didn’t rush their offense too much.
Seattle was basically the better team for three quarters of this game. We’ll get to that one really bad quarter in a little bit.
- Canada is so good at jumping passing lanes. Quigley was guilty of floating her pass to DeShields too much, but look how much ground Canada makes up to complete this steal. She goes from here
to here in the blink of an eye.
Canada’s aggressive approach will backfire occasionally. If she doesn’t get a hand to the ball, then DeShields either has an open three-pointer or can pass off to Vandersloot in the corner.
But you trust Canada to make the right decision the majority of the time because her defensive instincts are so acute.
- Getting 20 points from Loyd should theoretically be good. It’s not good when those 20 points come on 6-of-16 shooting from the floor and 1-of-7 shooting on three-pointers.
You can’t help but feel some of Loyd’s struggle this season are purely down to bad luck.
Even though she didn’t find the mark here, you want Loyd taking this shot 10 times out of 10.
Somehow this was a miss too.
And then there’s this.
But the numbers are difficult to ignore. According to Basketball Reference, Loyd has a .472 true shooting percentage and a .408 effective field-goal percentage. Those are down from .550 and .501, respectively, in 2018. Her offensive rating (98.8) is on pace to be the second worst of her career and a steep decline from a season ago (112.3), per WNBA.com.
The injuries to Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird presented Loyd with an opportunity to put the Storm on her back and become the team’s on-court leader. Instead, she’s slipping into a slightly worse version of the player that made the All-Star team in 2018.
- Maybe somebody more dialed in to the Storm behind the scenes can answer this: Is Courtney Paris injured?
The Sky out-rebounded the Storm 45-22, yet Paris didn’t see the floor whatsoever. Paris has clear limitations on defense and won’t stretch the floor on offense. However, she averaged 13.3 rebounds per 36 minutes in 2018, according to Basketball Reference.
It seems like Paris would have obvious value for a team that’s 11th in offensive rebounding rate (29.6 percent) and ninth in overall rebounding rate (48.0 percent).
- Howard is now 1-of-14 from beyond the arc after missing her three three-point attempts Sunday.
Last year, Howard wasn’t a dead-eye specialist but hit her long-range opportunities at a high enough clip (32.7 percent) to be effective as a shooter and keep opposing defenses on their toes.
Now, that dimension simply isn’t here for the Storm and partially because of that, Seattle is 10th in both made threes (4.7 per game) and three-point percentage (.262).
With Stewart and Howard devastating defenses on pick-and-pops and spot-up jumpers, the Storm epitomized the position-less basketball that has taken over the NBA and migrated into the WNBA in 2018.
Now, Seattle has a much more traditional offense, which is much easier to defend.
- *waves hand and gestures to the entire first quarter*
You would’ve guessed the Storm were wrapping up their four-game road trip rather than just getting it started. These are the kinds of mistakes you might expect from a team battling the general fatigue of a regular season.
Although DeShields didn’t score on her fast-break layup, Quigley eventually ended the possession with a three-pointer.
I mean, we all saw those opening 10 minutes. What else needs to be said?
- Here are the plus-minus ratings for the Storm’s four bench players: minus-19, minus-13, minus-20 and minus-eight.
This is basically a return to the Boucek era, when the starters were carrying an unsustainable load and the bench was providing very little.
The hard part is, the remedy isn’t readily apparent.
Gary Kloppenburg can only do so much when Stewart and Bird are out injured. Imagine how good the second unit would be with Canada and Mercedes Russell. That’s not something Kloppenburg can do with the personnel at his disposal.
Shavonte Zellous missed Sunday’s game with a knee injury, which put a further strain on the team’s depth.
Then there’s the fact Sami Whitcomb and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis are a combined 9-of-34 on three-pointers this season. Whitcomb’s performance is particularly disappointing coming off her great playoff run and excellent stint overseas in France.
*Insert tired cliches about how it’s a long season and the Storm have to look ahead to their next game*