(Bradenton, FL) WONDERFUL. TERRIFIC. AMAZING. DOMINANT. I’m running out of words to describe the Seattle Storm. What more can you say after another impressive game? The Storm appear to be a class above the rest right now in the WNBA. With their historic 100-63 victory over the Atlanta Dream the Storm improved their record to 8-1. The 37 point difference was the Dream’s largest defeat in franchise history.
Coach Kloppenburg talked about the victory after the game.
“Just a great team effort overall, that’s what we wanted to do. There are still some very good players over there so it’s difficult to blow somebody out in this league. It’s a rare occurrence. We got our running game going, we were moving the ball extremely well, I thought our defense was just as tough. We got some separation and we were able to finish it up with our bench. I thought they came in and did an outstanding job. We’ve been wanting to have and play a 40-minute game, we felt like we were playing in spurts and had some lulls in previous games but it didn’t feel like that tonight. It felt like we were consistent throughout.”
The lopsided defeat wasn’t the only historical thing about this game. The Storm tied a WNBA all-time record with 18 made three-pointers in the game. Jewell Loyd and Sami Whitcomb combined for 10 of the 18 shots from beyond the arc. The two shooting guards scored 20 points each to lead Seattle.
Seattle had just three players score in double figures with the two mentioned above and Alysha Clark who had 16 points. Clark continues her hot shooting as she has now scored 10 or more points in six straight games. Conveniently, the Storm are also 6-0 during that time.
Clark praised her teammates after the game.
“Sami is one of the best shooters, one of the best snipers to be in our league. When she gets going, she’s hard to stop and I know from playing against her how hard it is to guard her because she’s constantly moving and going so when we can get her good looks, same with Jewell. Jewell’s been working on her 3’s since she’s been in the league and now she’s really efficient with that… When you have your two guards out there shooting the ball like they’re shooting, it’s gonna be tough for everybody.”
The Atlanta Dream had just two players score in double figures. Betnijah Laney, who is likely the front-runner for Most Improved Player right now, had another strong performance. She scored 17 points to lead the Dream. Former Storm guard Blake Dietrick had a career night, scoring a career-high 16 points including four made threes. She also pulled down five rebounds which was a new high mark for her in that category. It’s always nice to see former Seattle players continue to have success in the league even after they leave the Storm.
The Return of Sue Bird
The Storm went 5-0 without their veteran point guard Sue Bird. But there were noticeable differences during those games without their leader. Even though they won every single game, the team struggled at times. The offense would fall off a cliff in some of these games, notably scoring just 13 points in the 3rd quarter against Atlanta in their first matchup against the Dream, 12 points in the 4th quarter against Phoenix, and 13 points against Chicago in the 2nd period.
Seattle moved the ball so much better on Wednesday night and the addition of Bird to the starting lineup helped significantly with that. The Storm had a season-high 31 assists.
Bird played 21 minutes in her return, scoring nine points on 3-5 FG shooting (all from the 3-point line). She also had seven assists and zero turnovers.
Jordin Canada also benefitted from the return of Bird. Canada has been having to play significant minutes at the point in Bird’s absence. Especially, since Epiphanny Prince also left the team for personal reasons just one game after Bird went down with an injury.
Canada played just 21 minutes against Atlanta and while she didn’t have big scoring numbers, just four points on 1-4 FG shooting, she led the team with a game-high 10 assists. The former UCLA guard also led the team with three steals.
Defense and Depth
There are two things that really set the Seattle Storm apart from the rest of the league right now. It’s their defense and their depth. I keep saying it, but the team leads the WNBA in major defensive categories like opponent shot percentage and opponent’s scoring average.
The defense has now held the opposing team to under 30 points total in the first half of three straight games. That is incredibly impressive!
Jewell Loyd and Alysha Clark both talked about the team’s defensive efforts after the game.
“We’re an active defensive team and a lot of that, we rely on communication to get in rotations and we’re constantly talking to each other out there. When you have multiple people moving collectively on the defensive end and are aggressive, it makes it tough for the opponent so we take pride in our defense,” Clark said.
“(We’re) just communicating. We’re really intense on our scouts. We know personnel really well. We want to make sure that we’re able to run. To run we have to get stops. Limiting teams to one shot, rebounding and pushing the ball. Our focus defensively is trying to get stops so we can run,” Loyd added
Yes, it obviously helped Seattle that Atlanta was without rookie Chennedy Carter. Carter, who scored 35 points in the first game against Seattle, was sidelined with an ankle injury on Wednesday. The Storm held the Dream to a season-low 66 points on 37% FG shooting (27-74).
Seattle’s defense is winning them games. But when their offense is clicking like it was tonight, the team looks unbeatable.
Breanna Stewart was limited to just seven points on 1-5 field goal shooting. The Storm won the game by 37 points. The WNBA is arguably the most competitive league in all of sports. Seattle’s top super star struggled to score and her team still won by nearly 40 points. Let that sink in for a moment!
It’s because this team has crazy depth. Before the season tipped off, Sue Bird talked to media about how she felt they had a legit starting five coming off their bench this season. She wasn’t wrong. Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell were starters all of last year. Crystal Langhorne was a starter in Seattle for many years. Sami Whitcomb could easily start in the WNBA for another team. She just happens to be playing behind a #1 overall pick (and All-Star) in Jewell Loyd here in Seattle. Even rookie Ezi Magbegor has looked fantastic in her first season with the Storm. Contributing both offensively and defensively in every game.
On Wednesday night, Seattle’s depth shined bright! The Storm’s bench combined to score 40 points and outscored the Dream’s 40-15. In the game against Chicago on Monday, Seattle’s bench scored 32 points. They are really starting to put things to
gether as the season enters its third week.
What makes the Storm so dangerous is they have so many players that can step up on any given night. Whether it’s the starters or the bench players. Keep an eye on Natasha Howard. While her statistics in the box score aren’t jumping off the table, the past three games she has been getting better and better. Howard looked the best offensively in this game than we’ve seen all season. In just 13 minutes of play, she scored eight points on 3-5 shooting, she also had seven rebounds, a steal, and one blocked shot. We know Howard has All-Star level talent. She’s had a rough start to this season but she is trending up and that’s just going to make Seattle that much more difficult to contain.
I spoke to Coach Kloppenburg after the game about Howard’s continued improvement.
“She’s coming along. She’s getting her conditioning, she’s getting her strength back. Every game you see her playing with a lot more energy and intensity. She finished those inside shots that she had been missing, she was down there finishing them, so she’s coming, she’s coming along. It’s really good to see, I thought she did a really good job defensively too, moving her feet, so yeah. I just thought it was a really good team effort, you know, contributions from everybody. Any time you have 31 assists on 35 baskets, that’s just a fantastic offensive night.”
Seattle took control of this game right away. Atlanta kept the game reasonably close through most of the first quarter often trailing by just four points or so. But the Storm finished the quarter on a 5-0 run to go up nine at 23-14. Alysha Clark was the star of the first quarter scoring 10 of her 16 points in the opening frame.
The Storm broke the game open in the second quarter by outscoring the Dream by ten, 24-14. The Dream shot just 32% in the 1st half while Seattle shot 50%. Seattle led by 19, 47-28 at the midway point.
What has been a common theme this season is that Seattle has had a tendenacy to allow other teams back into the game in the 2nd half. They dominated both Phoenix and Los Angeles in the first half of those games, but went cold over the final two quarters allowing both teams to at least make a game of it before the Storm would ultimately pick up the victories. On Wednesday, there would be no let up. Jewell Loyd got hot knocking down three triples and scoring 11 points in the quarter. Seattle outscored Atlanta 26-18 and led 73-46 after three.
The 4th quarter turned into the Sami Whitcomb show! Whitcomb scored 17 of her 20 points in the final period including knocking down five three-pointers. Morgan Tuck also knocked down a couple threes. In total, the Storm shot 7-9 (78%) from beyond the arc in the final period. Seattle outscored Atlanta 27-17 over the final ten minutes.
Sue Bird hit her first three in the first quarter on a Jewell Loyd assist to put Seattle up 12-7. It was Bird’s first of three triples from beyond the arc.
On the very next possession, Jewell Loyd had a beautiful dribble crossover to blow past Blake Dietrick for the pull-up jumper to put Seattle up 14-7.
Sue Bird knocked down a corner three. Seattle then got a defensive stop. Then Bird got the ball up the court, found a cutting Alysha Clark for another easy basket to put Seattle up 56-31 and forced the Dream to call timeout.
A few plays later, Seattle had two plays with absolutely beautiful ball movement. Multiplayer players touching the ball on the possessions and passing it around. Both possessions resulted in finding Jewell Loyd wide up in the corner for a three where she knocked down both of them putting Seattle up 62-35.
Every single game, Ezi Magbegor has an impressive block. This game was no different as she swatted another one out of bounds late in the third quarter.
The 4th quarter was the Sami Whitcomb show. Whitcomb knocked down five three-pointers and scored 17 points in the final frame.
Around the W
After starting the season 0-5 the Connecticut Sun (3-6) have now won three out of their last four games, including a win Wednesday night against the Dallas Wings (3-6). DeWanna Bonner led the Sun in scoring with 18 points. Alyssa Thomas added 17 points and 7 rebounds. Jasmine Thomas was the only other player to score in double figures with ten. The Wings leading scorer was Arike Ogunbowale who had 19 points. Allisha Gray added 15 points and rookie Tyasha Harris had 13 points off the bench.
The Chicago Sky (6-3) bounced back nicely after their 89-71 loss to the Seattle Storm with their own 89-71 victory over the Phoenix Mercury (5-4). The Mercury are still without Diana Taurasi who injured her back at the end of the game against Seattle last Thursday. Stefanie Dolson returned for the Sky after missing the last 7 games for Chicago. Dolson scored 8 points and grabbed 9 rebounds in just 15 minutes and helped hold Brittney Griner to just 9 points. The Sky had four players in double figures led by Allie Quigley with 20. Kahlea Copper (16), Courtney Vandersloot (12), and Azura Stevens (10) were the other players to score in double digits. In a losing effort for Phoenix, Skylar Diggins-Smith and Sophie Cunningham each had 15 points and Bria Hartley added 13 points off the bench.
The Storm get one day of rest and will then have to face the Dallas Wings (3-6) on Friday at 5:00pm PST. The Wings are in the middle of a youth movement as they drafted three players in the first round of the 2020 WNBA Draft (Satou Sabally, Bella Alarie, and Ty Harris).