The Seattle Storm somehow held on to a 69-66 win over the Las Vegas Aces on Friday night.
Seattle won despite shooting just 27.8 percent from the floor, though the team owned a 12-point advantage in three-point shooting. The Storm also forced 21 turnovers, which generated 22 points. Their 18 steals were a franchise record.
Natasha Howard was the game’s leading scorer (21 points), while Sami Whitcomb rode a hot first quarter to a 14-point outing.
Liz Cambage posted a double-double (16 points, 14 rebounds) for the Aces. Kelsey Plum didn’t enjoy her return to Hec Edmundson Pavilion, shooting 3-of-11 for 10 points.
With Friday’s victory, the Storm (12-8) move up to fourth in the WNBA standings.
The Game in a GIF
You know it’s a good steal when the TV producers are scrambling to switch to a different camera mid-steal in order to catch it.
- Good lord, that Storm defense.
The Aces actually shot a pretty efficient 41.9 percent from the floor and 45.5 percent from three-point range. But they attempted 10 fewer shots than Seattle in large part because of those aforementioned 21 turnovers.
Jordin Canada was brilliant against Plum. It’s rare a player can have a 73.9 offensive rating yet still finish with a plus-3.3 net rating, but that illustrates how good Canada was on defense.
Watch Bill Laimbeer lose his mind on the sideline as Canada prevents Plum from getting up a shot or passing off before the first-half buzzer sounds.
Howard and Mercedes Russell were just as good at stifling Cambage and A’ja Wilson inside. Wilson was limited to a little over 21 minutes after exiting with an injury but still only had five points.
Howard had six blocks, none more emphatic than this denial on Cambage in the fourth quarter.
- Through their nine games, the Storm ranked last in made threes (4.7 per game) and 10th in three-point percentage (.288). In the 11 games since Dan Hughes returned to the sideline, Seattle is first in both made threes (9.2) and three-point percentage (.363).
When Gary Kloppenburg filled in to open the season, the Storm were a good defensive team who relied largely on working the ball inside on offense. The latter strategy worked on occasion but is also somewhat easy to combat from the opponent’s perspective.
With Hughes, Seattle is back to what helped deliver a WNBA championship in 2018. Crystal Langhorne is looking more and more comfortable as a stretch big. Whitcomb has carte blanche to shoot from anywhere inside the half court. And Canada is two made threes away from matching her overall total as a rookie.
Despite the various injuries to Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Hughes is finding a way to compensate.
Since he will have missed a quarter of the regular season, some may not put Hughes in the Coach of the Year race. But he’s making as strong of a case as anybody else based on how the Storm are playing under his watch.
- Whitcomb cooled off after scoring nine points in the opening frame, yet her performance was pivotal all the same.
She had three assists and you know I’m a sucker for a no-look Sami dime.
She collected five rebounds as well, including perhaps the *most* Sami Whitcomb rebound you’re ever going to see.
So. Much. Grit.
- I don’t think she was actually looking at him but I’m choosing to believe Canada was giving the referee a serious death stare because he refused to give her the ball in an expedient manner. This works in a mansplaining context as well.
- Jewell Loyd stepped on the court for the first time since getting injured in the Storm’s June 25 loss to the Aces. She was clearly a little rusty, missing all five of her shots and turning the ball over once in 8:31 of game time.
But it’s great to see Loyd back, and it’s nice she’s healthy in time to suit up for her second All-Star Game.
- As much as Canada did to make Plum’s night miserable, Plum returned the favor in kind. Canada was 1-of-12 from the floor and 0-of-5 from the perimeter. Plum had the second-highest net rating (15.6) of any starter.
- It’s probably never a good sign when Howard is taking 21 shots. While you understand why she took so many shots, it showed how little the Storm’s offense was flowing for long stretches of the game. The game plan reverted to Howard in the Stewie role of giving her the ball and waiting for something to happen.
- Through the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, the Storm had five points. Is that good? That doesn’t seem good.
This wasn’t even the equivalent of a football team playing a prevent defense late in the game to stave off a comeback. This was a football team kneeling for three downs and then punting while up a field goal inside the final minutes.
Time and again, the Storm let the shot clock drain in the fourth quarter and was forced into a contested jumper with little to no chance of success as a result.
If Seattle is ever thinking about running the “dribble around for 23 seconds and then send up a prayer to beat the shot clock” offense again, please don’t.
Defense and timely threes. That’s the recipe for success.