The Morning After: Whew!

Sami InterviewThe Seattle Storm nearly threw away a 21-point lead Wednesday night against the Minnesota Lynx before holding on for a 90-79 victory.

Seattle fended off Minnesota’s late charge, scoring 10 unanswered points in the final three minutes to earn its 11th win and move to fourth in the WNBA standings.

Natasha Howard had a career-high 33 points and was one of four Storm starters to score in double figures. Sami Whitcomb shot 5-of-11 from beyond the arc en route to a 15-point night and added eight assists.

Lexie Brown was a big reason for the Lynx’s second-half turnaround as she scored a team-high 20 points. But Odyssey Sims and Napheesa Collier were a combined 5-of-23 for 13 points.

 

Context-Free ScreenshotBlake Dietrick Flagrant

SMH sometimes you just gotta let the players play.

 

The Game in a GIF

Natasha Howard Right Baby Hook

There was no bigger shot in the game than this. You had the feeling the night would irreparably turn if the Lynx had taken the lead late in the fourth quarter. Howard was by far Seattle’s best player and her shot here had a stabilizing impact that allowed the team to see out the win.

 

The Good

  • Jordin Canada was limited to only 26:21 and finished with 12 points, three rebounds and three assists. She also made her only two three-point attempts.
    For the most part, teams are willing to give Canada this kind of space on the perimeter, either intentionally or in this instance because Odyssey Sims rotated over to guard Whitcomb, a more formidable long-range threat.Jordin Canada Three-Pointer
    Canada’s game and the Storm’s offense as a whole will open up so much more when she’s capitalizing on these open shots like she was Wednesday.
    Following a six-game stretch where she was 0-of-7 from long range, Canada has connected on five of her 12 three-pointers in Seattle’s last four games.
  • Sylvia Fowles had 16 points on 7-of-13 shooting, so she was effective when she got her shot up close to the basket. Limiting her to 13 shots was the key.
    In Mercedes Russell, the Storm have a more traditional center who can harass Fowles inside. However, immediately doubling her and forcing her to pass out remains their best strategy for slowing the 2017 MVP down. Seattle used that approach to great effect, and the team’s superb defensive rotation meant Minnesota wasn’t getting open shots when Fowles had to dump the ball off to a teammate.
  • Here are the Lynx’s two possessions immediately after Howard’s baby hook to put the Storm up three points inside the final three minutes.Mercedes Russell Block BrownMercedes Russell Fowles Defense
    Russell denies Brown at the basket and then uses her length to disrupt Fowles without fouling her. Two sequences that illustrate her improvement as a rim protector.
    The first GIF also doesn’t include Russell shading Sims to the right off a pick on Alysha Clark by Fowles and then quickly switching to Fowles as she was rolling to the basket. That left Collier with the smallest of windows to feed Fowles inside and she bypassed the All-Star center instead.
  • When you thought it impossible, Whitcomb has leaned even more heavily into her three-point shooting in 2019. Of her 130 field-goal attempts, only 22 have come from inside the arc.
    The absences of Canada, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird have forced Whitcomb to become more a playmaker, though, and she’s averaging a career-best 4.8 assists per 36 minutes as a result, according to Basketball Reference. That hasn’t coincided with a spike in her turnovers, either (2.3 per 36 in 2019 compared to 2.4 for her career).
    During her year with Basket Lattes Montpellier, Whitcomb was second on the team in assists in both the French league (3.3) and EuroCup (2.9). One silver lining from this season is we’re getting to see the overseas version of Sami a little more.
    Look at this no-look lead pass from Whitcomb to Howard.Sami No Look Assist
    Don’t sleep on this assist where Whitcomb threads the ball between Sims and Collier and allows Howard to take advantage of a mismatch on Danielle Robinson.Sami Threads the Needle
    Ideally, the Storm would add another natural point guard to account for all of their injuries, but you can understand why Dan Hughes is comfortable continuing to roll with Whitcomb as one of his primary playmakers.
  • Look no further than Clark for why Sims and Collier collectively struggled so much. She finished with an 87.9 defensive rating.

 

The Bad

  • I still haven’t forgotten Blake Dietrick’s look of utter despair when the referees assessed her with a flagrant foul in the fourth quarter.Blake Dietrick Despair

 

The Ugly

  • Both Canada and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis exited the game with injuries, leaving the Storm with eight players.
    If you watched Chernobyl, you’ll remember the scene where Jared Harris’ character informs employees of the nuclear plant that volunteers are required to drain water from the basement of the plant to avert a massive explosion. Understandably, nobody was jumping at the chance to be exposed to vast amounts of radiation.
    That must be what life is like for Alisha Valavanis right now as prospective free agents look at the Storm’s injury record in 2019.

 

The Verdict

A win is a win regardless of whether the Storm nearly imploded in the fourth quarter. The fact Seattle didn’t completely collapse under the Lynx’s wave of momentum on the road again shows how composed this squad is.

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