The Seattle Storm slipped to .500 (8-8) following a 77-66 defeat to the Atlanta Dream at home Friday night.
Little went right for Seattle offensively until the fourth quarter. The Storm opened the game on an 11-0 run yet finished with just 24 first-half points. They shot 36.4 percent from the field and 7-of-27 from beyond the arc for the game.
Natasha Howard had a team-high 20 points but got little from the supporting cast. Jordin Canada (15 points) and Alysha Clark (12 points) were the only other Storm players to score in double figures. Nobody else had more than six points.
Tiffany Hayes led all scorers with 21 points and Elizabeth Williams nearly had a double-double (10 points, nine rebounds). The Dream improved what remains the WNBA’s worst field-goal percentage (.374) by making 42 percent of their shots.
The Game in a GIF
Clark’s reaction after the miss was all of us watching the game.
- Howard strengthened her MVP candidacy in the loss. In addition to her 20 points, she had seven rebounds and three blocks. She also shot 2-of-4 from beyond the arc, her second straight game with two made three-pointers.
Howard is still only shooting 26.2 percent on threes, but perhaps she’s getting her stroke back to where it was in 2018, when she made just under a third of her long-range jumpers.
- For all intents and purposes, this game was over after the third quarter. Seattle trailed by 18 points, having failed to score more than 14 points in any of the first three quarters.
The Storm could’ve packed it in and instead outscored the Dream 28-21 over the final 10 minutes.
- While the Dream have been a mess this year, they presented the worst possible matchup for this iteration of the Storm.
The coaching staff has done well to tailor the game plan to its personnel, which has meant an increased emphasis on scoring in the paint. Unfortunately for Seattle, that played right into Atlanta’s hands.
The Dream are holding opponents to 55.2 percent shooting inside five feet (fifth in the WNBA) and 27.8 percent between five and nine feet (first).
The Storm were unable to stretch the floor very well, which meant having to go through Jessica Breland and Elizabeth Williams en route to the basket. To see their impact on the game, here are Howard and Mercedes Russell’s shot charts. (Keep in mind two of Howard’s makes came within seconds of one another in the third quarter amid total chaos in the game.)
Russell was coming off a career-high 19 points against the Liberty on Wednesday and she was a total non-factor Friday.
- Dan Hughes got ejected in the third quarter after Crystal Langhorne picked up a questionable charge.
You know a referee made a mistake when Hughes gets this heated.
At that point, the Storm were one sustained run away from getting back into the game and that was probably part of Hughes’ thinking. His ejection might have a galvanizing effect on the team.
Alas, that didn’t happen.
- The Storm had only 14 assists to 19 turnovers. That’s, uh, rarely a good sign.
- Sami Whitcomb went 1-of-9 on threes. God bless her for pulling up and taking a three-pointer down 11 points with 9.1 seconds left in the game. Those are truly the instincts of a fearless gunner.
Whitcomb has started Seattle’s last four games and attempted 35 three-pointers over that stretch. Hughes appears to be giving her a complete green light with so many other shooters unavailable.
But Whitcomb’s inconsistency makes it tough to justify her taking nine threes a game.
- Looking much further ahead, I wonder when the general perception around Canada’s three-point shooting shifts from “work in progress” to “this is a problem.”
The second-year guard ended a six-game stretch without a three when she connected from deep in the fourth quarter.
Canada shot 18.2 percent on threes in 2018 and has actually gone backward in 2019 (16.7 percent).
One could plausibly argue Canada is facing tougher matchups this year given her promotion to the starting lineup. She’s also not getting the open opportunities that would otherwise be afforded to her if defenses had to shadow Howard, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd at the same time. Throw those two factors together and Canada’s struggles right now can be explained.
Plus, Canada steadily improved over her four years at UCLA, going 3-of-23 from the perimeter as a freshman and growing into a 38.6 percent three-point shooter as a senior.
Perhaps that’s how long it will take Canada’s offensive game to come together in the WNBA. But it would be nice to see some sign of progress in her second season.
The Storm have dropped three games in a row, so their week-long break before their matchup with the Dallas Wings on July 12 should allow them to recharge. Seattle has done well to weather the impact of so many injuries to key players, but the issue is becoming too large to overcome.