The Seattle Storm are a little over a quarter of the way through the 2019 WNBA regular season, having compiled a 5-4 record through their first nine games.
Seattle’s hopes of successfully defending its 2018 championship appear slim, but the bar for success changed drastically when Breanna Stewart was lost for the year to a ruptured Achilles. Then came Sue Bird’s knee surgery that has delayed her season debut indefinitely.
Forget winning a title; just reaching the playoffs would be an achievement.
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).
Following an ugly loss to the Minnesota Lynx, the Seattle Storm rebounded with a commanding 82-66 win over the Atlanta Dream on Friday night.
Natasha Howard led all scorers with 19 points and added 14 rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks to an excellent all-around night. Jordin Canada chipped in with 12 points and seven assists, while Jewell Loyd finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and four dimes.
Tiffany Hayes battled foul trouble early on and never found her groove, scoring nine points on 2-of-4 shooting. Renee Montgomery had a night to forget as well, shooting 1-of-6 for three points.
Mercedes Russell’s rookie season got off to an inauspicious start. The 2018 second-round pick didn’t make it out of training camp for the New York Liberty. The Liberty signed her back but then released her again after two games to make room for Kia Vaughn.
But Russell’s year ended with a WNBA championship, so she had the last laugh.
Mercedes Russell By the Numbers
Crashing the Boards
Rebounding was Russell’s biggest area of strength in 2018, which isn’t all that surprising based on her senior year at Tennessee. During the 2017-18 season, she ranked in the top 11th percentile in total rebounding rate (14.3 percent), per Her Hoops Stats. She was also in the top 10 percent in offensive rebounding rate (11.1 percent) and top 16 percent in defensive rebounding rate (17.2 percent).
What do you get the team that has everything? Seattle Storm general manager Alisha Valavanis and head coach Dan Hughes are about to find out as they look to build on a 2018 season in which the Storm were WNBA champions for the third time.
Incremental change was the theme of the 2018 offseason.
Valavanis didn’t panic after a season in which Seattle finished eighth and fired its head coach in the middle of the year.
The Storm could’ve taken a chance on a young first-year head coach. Instead, they hired Hughes, one of the most experienced coaches in WNBA history.
And rather than shaking up the roster, Valavanis signed eight-year veteran Courtney Paris and acquired Natasha Howard in a sign-and-trade with the Minnesota Lynx. Howard was a revelation in her first year with the team and the missing piece of the proverbial puzzle, but it didn’t look like Seattle got demonstrably better ahead of the 2018 campaign.