Troubling pattern as Storm lose to Connecticut again

by Kevin Nesgoda

(Seattle, WA) – With Tuesday night’s loss to the Connecticut Sun, the Seattle Storm have now lost four out of their last five games. Not exactly the type of momentum you want to have heading into the playoffs in a couple of weeks. Connecticut dominated for most of the game, capitalizing on several costly turnovers by Seattle. The 89-70 loss was the third loss to Connecticut this season as the Sun were the only team to sweep the Storm in the regular season. Seattle dropped another game and now fall to the 7th seed after the Minnesota Lynx beat the Chicago Sky on Tuesday.

Seattle continues to struggle offensively with just two players scoring in double figures. Jewell Loyd led the Storm with 18 points on a very efficient 7-11 FG shooting, including 4-5 from three-point range. Loyd knocked down her first three shots of the game which allowed Seattle to get out to an early 12-6 lead. Crystal Langhorne added 12 points off the bench, including a pair of three’s.

Similar to Sunday’s game against Indiana, the Connecticut Sun would regroup after a timeout and go on their own 10-0 run to take a 16-12 lead over Seattle. They would never relinquish the lead after that and took a four-point lead, 24-20, into the 2nd quarter.

The Sun held the advantage in several key statistics. But the two that really stood out were Connecticut’s 19-0 advantage in fast-break points and their 58-18 advantage for points in the paint. The 58 points in the paint are the most given up in Storm franchise history.

Seattle was also out-rebounded 43-30. The Storm also committed more than twice as many turnovers than the Sun (17-8); which included 14 steals by Connecticut compared to just four for Seattle. All in all, the Storm were completely outplayed on Tuesday night.

“It’s a big road win for us. Eighty-nine points for us on the road and we didn’t do it through the three ball and not really even through the foul line with 37 baskets made for us. The one that really jumps off the page is 58-18 in the paint. We played downhill, got the ball into the paint and finished around the rim so I’m really proud of them that we were in attack mode tonight. We were aggressive and got them on their heels. We just kept waiting for their big runs because we know they’re capable, but we just held them at bay. On a night when three, four and five (in the standings) lose – that was big for us because we picked up a game. It’s huge for us in the big picture.”

Connecticut Head Coach Curt Miller

To make matters worse, Seattle also really struggled from the foul line shooting just 47% on 9-19 foul shots.

Despite all of these lopsided statistics, the Storm stayed competitive in the first half, trailing the Sun by just eight points 44-36 at the midway point. However, the wheels fell off the wagon in the third quarter. Seattle committed six turnovers in the period, which led to more transition baskets. The Sun would double up on the Storm outscoring Seattle 27-13 in the third.

Seattle played well in the 4th quarter, outscoring the Sun 21-18 but it was too little, too late as the Storm trailed by as many as 26 points in the 2nd half.

Connecticut was led by Alyssa Thomas who had a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. She was also responsible for getting several of the Sun’s fast-break transition points. In total, the Sun had three players score in double figures and six players with eight points or more. Courtney Williams added 17 points and Jonquel Jones had ten points.

“All game our defense was pretty bad. We talked about it in practice but to emulate that in game time with [Alyssa Thomas] bringing it up the floor is different. So that was half the battle.”

Jewell Loyd on the team’s poor defense

Natasha Howard had one of her worst games of the season finishing with just six points on 2-8 shooting from the floor. Coach Dan Hughes, felt like they’ve relied too heavily on Howard this season and that the entire team really needed to step up their effort.

 “The thing that has been our story has been what we do as a team. It has been about the next player up type of mentality. That is part of our story, there is no question. But we are at a point as we prepare for the playoffs and try to play well and we need to make sure we know who we are. That’s who we are and without it it’s not going to happen this year. We have to get back to a cohesive offensive and defensive structure that allows the totality of who we are to come out.” 

Coach Dan Hughes on needing everyone to step up as one unit

After the game, Connecticut Sun Head Coach Curt Miller also talked about limiting Natasha Howard and forcing Seattle into several turnovers.

“Individually, huge credit to Alyssa Thomas. We think she’s as a good of a defender as there is in the league. There was a real competitiveness between those two. We stayed in plays and we disrupted them. Last game we turned them over 27 times and tonight 17 so in our last two games — against a team I really have great respect for – we’ve turned them over 23 times on average. We just got them a little bit out of sync and made them have to play a little bit more out of system. And I thought we had a good night when they got out of system.”

Sun Coach Curt Miller on their ability to stop Natasha Howard and create turnovers

The Playoffs are almost here

With the playoffs right around the corner, Seattle Coach Dan Hughes is noticing that these elite teams like Washington and Connecticut are really taking their games to a whole new level. And that the Storm have not yet been able to match that intensity and level of play.

“These teams are raising it a little bit because they’re playing for position and they’re playing for the playoffs. You’re getting a true look at veterans playing at a very high level. I think we come out with the right intent, but we are learning a hard lesson which is how strong we have to be in what we do with each other when teams like that raise it a notch.”

Coach Hughes on the elite teams taking their play to a new level

One thing that should help Seattle turn the corner is the fact that they have beaten every single team in the league this season except for Connecticut. The team has already proven they have the ability to compete with just about everyone in the league. It’s just a matter of getting better on offense, correcting their defensive mistakes, limiting their turnovers and playing as a complete unit.

“It does give us confidence. We feel like we can play with anyone in the league. Even the last game [against Connecticut], they stole that one from us. We are not playing too well right now but we have some time this week to get better and get back in the gym. ”

Crystal Langhorne on the team’s confidence heading into the playoffs

Trending in the Wrong Direction

One interesting note is that the Seattle Storm are the only playoff team with a negative point differential. The four lottery teams all have a negative point differential: Indiana (-3.8), Dallas (-4.8), New York (-7.5) and Atlanta (-7.6).

Seattle averages 74.1 points per game and gives up 74.7 points a game, good for a -0.6 point differential. The 74.1 points per game is the third-worst in the WNBA (ahead of only Dallas and Atlanta) and is 13.1 points lower than the 2018 Championship season.

Up Next

The Seattle Storm have one more home game this season on Sunday 09/01 against the Atlanta Dream. They then finish the regular season with three straight road games against the Phoenix Mercury, Los Angles Sparks, and Dallas Wings. The game against the Mercury will likely determine whether Seattle finishes 7th or 8th.

The Storm may need to go 3-1 or even 4-0 in order to secure the 6th seed and a home playoff game. The 5th seed is just about out of reach at this point as Seattle would need to finish 4-0 and have Chicago finish the season 0-4 in order to climb up into the 5th seed.

Ultimately, the lower seed may be what’s best for the organization long-term as falling down to the 8th seed would allow Seattle to draft 5th overall in the 2020 WNBA Draft.

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