The Seattle Storm took both games in their return home over the weekend, beating the Los Angeles Sparks 84-62 on Friday and then toppling the Indiana Fever 65-61 on Sunday.
Jewell Loyd was the leading scorer on each occasion, going off for 23 points against the Sparks and then 21 against the Fever. Loyd sank the decisive bucket Sunday, laying the ball in with 24.6 seconds remaining to give Seattle a two-point lead.
Natasha Howard strengthened her MVP campaign, posting 20 points and nine rebounds in the win over Los Angeles and following up with 17 points, six boards and four assists in the Storm’s seventh victory of the season.
Alysha Clark and Shavonte Zellous played pivotal roles in Sunday’s game, too. Clark had 11 points and five rebounds, while Zellous had 11 points and three assists in her second start as the Storm’s point guard.
The Game(s) in a GIF
Natasha Howard is on one this year.
- The Dan Hughes effect is real. Hughes returned to the bench for Friday’s game, and his presence coincided with a return to the offensive style Seattle displayed in 2018.
In nine games under Gary Kloppenburg, the Storm averaged 17.2 three-pointers per game, 10th in the WNBA, a stark contrast to when they heaved up a league-high 24.0 three-point attempts per contest a season ago.
Not only did Hughes come back, Seattle had four days between its 81-67 loss to the Connecticut Sun and its game against the Sparks. It would appear the coaching staff used that time to rejigger the game plan as the Storm went 14-of-26 from beyond the arc Friday and then 5-of-23 Sunday. Obviously one performance was better than the other, but this perhaps represents a shift for how the reigning champions attack opposing defenses.
- Natasha Howard is so good. She has approached the level where if she only has one player guarding her in the post, you have to assume that’s two points on the board for the Storm.
She can also run the floor as good as any big in the league. While not as impressive as her block on Kelsey Mitchell, Howard picked up a loose ball in the third quarter and put her head down as she completed a left-handed layup.
Sunday was one of those times where Howard didn’t put up monster numbers, but her impact on the Storm was impossible to ignore. She played the entire fourth quarter, with four fouls no less. According to WNBA.com, Seattle had an obscene 32.7 net rating in the 31:34 when Howard was on the floor.
It can’t be said enough how Seattle lost Breanna Stewart for the entire season and have another MVP contender emerge to fill the void.
- We got the full Jewell Loyd experience this weekend.
On Friday, she she shoots 8-of-18 from the field and ties her career high for made threes (five). Loyd accounted for 10 of the Storm’s 22 points in the first quarter, which is always an indication she’ll do something special.
Seattle was doing a great job of getting her free off the ball and finding her for open shots.
Then on Sunday the 2018 All-Star guard goes 0-of-6 on threes. The Loyd truly giveth and the Loyd taketh away.
This isn’t to say Loyd played poorly against the Fever, which is why her weekend collectively falls into the “good” category. She didn’t settle for mid-range jumpers and three-pointers and instead attacked the basket with regularity.
Her seven free throws tied a career high.
Loyd’s free throw rate is one point of contention with her overall game. Despite being an 88.2 percent shooter from the charity stripe, she’s averaging only 3.6 foul shots.
This weekend’s two wins showcased the diversity of Loyd’s offensive repertoire and how she should continue adapting to the flow of the game. When she’s consistently hitting three-pointers, she doesn’t need to drive to into the paint as much. But when those shots aren’t falling, she has to be more aggressive, which exactly what she was Sunday.
- The Storm tried out Blake Dietrick as their starting point guard following Jordin Canada’s knee injury. Hughes clearly prefers Shavonte Zellous in that role and she did well running the offense all things considered.
Sami Whitcomb also had three assists in each of Seattle’s two games as the secondary playmaker off the bench.
Circumstances have forced Zellous and Whitcomb into roles that don’t necessarily suit them, and they have reacted as well as anybody could’ve reasonably expected.
- Crystal Langhorne was 2-of-3 from deep against the Sparks. That game alone matched her previous season high for made threes.
- The Storm are third in defensive rating (94.1) after holding the Sparks and Fever to a collective 36 percent shooting.
- Here are your regularly scheduled “Mercedes Russell continues to do good things” GIFs:
We need to stuff the ballot boxes in order to get Russell to the 2019 All-Star Game.
- Let’s take a moment to appreciate Alysha Clark defending while carrying a shoe in her hand.
- Because they scored 82 points and pulled away so early, it’s easy to overlook the fact the Storm had only 18 assists to 13 turnovers Friday. Those numbers were almost identical to one another Sunday (13 assists, 12 turnovers).
Seattle is seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.17), according to WNBA.com.
To reiterate, this isn’t really a failing of the players or the coaching staff. This is the reality when your starting point guard is out indefinitely and then your backup point guard gets hurt too.
- Dietrick has quickly become a favorite here at Witty Weather Pun, so it was distressing to see her earn a DNP-coach’s decision Sunday. Why are you benching the 2019 D(ie)POY, Dan Hughes?
You keep expecting the Storm to slip a bit and succumb to the difficulties presented by the injuries to Canada, Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart, yet they continue to string together wins. This will be a big week for Seattle with games against the Las Vegas Aces, Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury ahead.