The Seattle Storm held on for an 84-82 victory Tuesday night against the Indiana Fever.
A foul on Natalie Achonwa helped decide the outcome as Jewell Loyd made a pair of free throws with 24.4 seconds remaining to put Seattle ahead. Loyd hit another free throw to make it a two-point game with 9.1 seconds left.
Loyd had 18 points, three rebounds four assists and three steals in the win. Mercedes Russell (13 points) and Natasha Howard (26 points) both set career highs in scoring and narrowly missed out on double-doubles, collecting eight and nine rebounds apiece.
Kelsey Mitchell went off for 21 points, while Candice Dupree had a double-double (10 points, 15 rebounds).
At 4-3, the Storm are now sixth in the WNBA.
The Game in a GIF
Love to see the game’s biggest stars stepping up in the biggest moments.
- This is what a good shot chart looks like for Loyd.
Her efficiency wasn’t superb, but she mixed in a good combination of three-pointers, mid-range jumpers and close looks inside.
When Loyd attacks the basket, one of three things is likely to happen—and two of those outcomes are good. Maybe she tries a contested layup, misses, and the opposing team takes possession. But Loyd could just as easily make the layup or draw a foul, the latter of which is as close to two automatic points as you can get since Loyd is a 88 percent free-throw shooter for her career.
Lo and behold, Loyd immediately forces the issue late in the game off an inbound and gets fouled by Natalie Achonwa.
Maybe Loyd was guilty of charging, but charging is a dumb foul and should be stricken from the rulebook.
Loyd has attempted 13 foul shots in the last two games, compared to 15 foul shots in Seattle’s first five games. Maybe that’s just coincidence but free throws are a much more effective way for Loyd to score than settling for mid-range jumpers.
- Howard was 9-of-17 from the field, yet it felt like she was even more dominant against the Fever.
According to WNBA.com, Indiana is holding opponents to a respectable 54.1 percent shooting on looks inside five feet and 20.8 percent between five and nine feet. However, Howard scored 26 points despite taking one shot outside of the paint. Although she’d ideally step outside of the post a little more, it was hard to argue with the results Tuesday night.
- Speaking of scoring inside, Russell was 6-of-11 en route to her career night.
Russell has improved by leaps and bounds with the experienced she gained in her rookie year and her first season overseas. She doesn’t just rely on her size and instead has a few moves she can utilize to great effect near the rim.
Her ability to move in the pick-and-roll is what will help her maintain a steady presence in the Storm’s lineup when Breanna Stewart is healthy in 2020.
Whether the ball-handler is Stewart, Howard, Loyd, Sue Bird, Jordin Canada or even Sami Whitcomb in this instance, opposing defenses are bound to converge on the dribbler, allowing Russell a clear path to the basket.
- Courtney Paris lives! She played 9:31, scoring two points and grabbing one rebound.
In general, the bench was much better. Sami Whitcomb was 2-of-3 from beyond the arc and Crystal Langhorne had seven points and a rebound in 9:14 on the floor.
- Calling this “bad” is probably not the best way to frame it because this seems to be how the Storm are going to operate. But attempting nine total three-pointers is a big departure from Seattle’s offense in 2018.
On one hand, the Storm are basically playing to their personnel and finding open shooters isn’t as easy when you only have one true point guard. On the other, Seattle can’t count on getting this kind of overall scoring output all of the time when so much of its offense is limited to a small area around the basket.
- Canada was 1-of-8 from the field. She just didn’t seem to have her shooting stroke as this is a great look yet didn’t find the bottom of the hoop.
In a way it’s good Canada took shots after going 3-of-11 in the loss to the Chicago Sky on Sunday. She shouldn’t lose confidence in her jump shot and get gun-shy based on one uneven shooting night.
- The bench largely delivered on the offensive end; the other end of the court was a different matter. Here are the defensive ratings for the four reserves that saw the floor: 121.1, 147.6, 131.6 and 161.9.
The obvious thing to do is write this off as one bad game. However, this is part of a larger trend for Seattle. Look at the gap between the starters and second unit in defensive rating:
Last year, the Storm struck a great balance in how Dan Hughes managed everybody’s minutes. Stewart was the only player to average 30-plus minutes per game. Now, Howard, Loyd and Canada are all eclipsing the 30-minute plateau and Alysha Clark is right on the cusp (29.0 MPG).
As much as you want to see Gary Kloppenburg take some pressure off of the key players, it’s hard to do that when the team’s performance falls off so significantly when they’re off the floor.
They probably made it harder than it needed to be, but the Storm walked away with a win. Now comes the hard part as Seattle plays the Washington Mystics on Friday and the Connecticut Sun on Sunday.