Seattle Storm survive the Dream 93-92

by Kevin Nesgoda

(Bradenton, FL) – Whew! What a game! The Seattle Storm narrowly escaped a late barrage of three-pointers and a furious rally by Atlanta to defeat the Dream 93-92. Breanna Stewart continued her quest to obtain her 2nd MVP award in as many seasons of active play. Tonight, Stewart came up big in the closing moments scoring 12 of a team-high 27 points in the 4th quarter that helped Seattle hang on for the victory.

Stewart shared her thoughts after the game.

“It was wild and crazy. Obviously, we started really strong and then seemed like second and third quarters we were struggling to kind of make shots a little bit, and I think the thing is we can’t be so focused on when one thing doesn’t go our way, we need to do something else, and that starts with me. Just continuing to kind of pick it up, obviously we picked it up at the end, close game as well, but it didn’t even need to be a game.”

Seattle’s starters had to log extra minutes in this game. With the game on the line Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and Jordin Canada all played the entire 4th quarter. The other starters, Alysha Clark played nine of the ten minutes and Natasha Howard played nearly eight of the ten minutes. In fact you didn’t see the bench barely at all in the 2nd half as Stewart logged 18 1/2 minutes (out of 20), Canada logged 18 and Jewell logged 17. And the team needed every second as the Atlanta Dream kept attacking each and every possession.

The first half was a completely different story. It looked like the Storm were on their way to yet another blowout victory. In 3 of Seattle’s 4 victories this season (before this game) Seattle had only played in one real close game. That was their 81-75 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks. And even in that game Seattle led by 17 points at one point.

In the first quarter, Seattle’s offense looked better than it has all season. The Storm shot nearly 70% from the floor (13-19), knocked down 50% of their three’s (4-8) and had 11 assists in the opening frame. Their defense looked just as good holding Atlanta to just 35% shooting (6-17) and 20% (2-10) from three. They also forced the Dream into six first quarter turnovers. Seattle led 31-16 after one. Alysha Clark was on fire to start this game knocking down three triples and scoring 11 of her 13 points in the first. Stewart also looked incredible with 12 points and several impressive drives to the basket.

Both teams played dead-even in the 2nd quarter scoring 23 points each. Seattle took a 54-39 lead into the half. But it was the third quarter where the tides started to turn. Atlanta’s defense suffocated Seattle holding the Storm to just 13 points. The Dream also used an 11-0 run to cut Seattle’s 15 point half-time lead down to just four points. Sami Whitcomb made a critical shot at the end of the third to put Seattle back up six at 67-61 as the game headed to the fourth.

The Dream outscored the Storm 53-39 in the 2nd half.

Jordin Canada was relieved they escaped with the victory, but wasn’t pleased with the defensive effort over the final two quarters.

“We were lackadaisical on the offensive end and even on the defensive end, our defensive schemes weren’t tight. We were allowing them to get offensive rebounds and second-chance opportunities. Drives to the basket, just open threes, we weren’t really locked in on the defensive end, and it allowed them to come back and get the hope. Down the stretch we just tried to execute as much as we could, knock down free throws – thank God – because if we didn’t, we would probably still be playing right now. But yeah, we were a little bit sluggish in the second half and that’s something that we got to fix going into the next game.”

The Chennedy Carter Show!

Sometimes I wonder how Chennedy Carter fell to the 4th pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft. All the talent in the world, one of the most lethal collegiate scorers in women’s basketball. But I get it. Sabrina Ionescu was the triple double queen in college accomplishing certain things no other player had done before. Of course she was going number one.

Then when Satou Sabally of Oregon declared early for the draft she became the clear #2 choice. Sabally with her height (6’4”), her length, her ability to rebound, block shots, score in the low post and knock down three’s. That all in one package doesn’t come around too often. Seattle certainly knows the value of a talented forward that can score inside and out, rebound and defend. Sabally isn’t Breanna Stewart, but she has a lot of similar qualities. There’s been signs of brilliance like Sabally’s 23 point and 17 rebound performance in a win against the Indiana Fever.

And then there’s Lauren Cox. Before Sabally declared early for the draft Lauren Cox was the clear #2 choice. Some even argued she could be drafted #1 overall ahead of Ionescu. Cox was one of the best post defenders in the NCAA and an excellent low-post scorer and passer. In the 2019 title game for Baylor, before going down with a leg injury, she was unstoppable. She did everything for the Baylor Lady Bears and despite leaving the game before it was over she left her mark all over that title game and was the reason they won the National Championship in 2019.

The Indiana Fever held the third pick in this year’s draft and they envisioned pairing Lauren Cox with 6’7” Teaira McCowan which could give them one of the most dominant defensive front courts in the WNBA.

All of these picks made sense and it’s hard to argue with any of them. But I won’t be surprised if at least one GM regrets their pick when it’s all said and done.

Chennedy Carter looked amazing Thursday against Seattle. She looked amazing on Tuesday against Phoenix. In both games she set career-highs, first 26 points against the Mercury and then 35 points against Seattle. She is a volume shooter but in the past two games she has been a volume scorer. She is getting to the basket, to the foul line, and knocking down her threes.

She’s so quick off the dribble she was getting past Jordin Canada with relative ease. That’s not something I thought I’d ever be saying. Help defense was either late far too often in this game or Carter is just that damn good at blowing by multiple defenders.

Atlanta Dream Coach Nicki Collen said nobody can guard Carter in this league. I’m starting to wonder if she’s right.

Now Carter isn’t perfect. In her 2nd pro game she scored just 11 points on 3-11 FG shooting. But if these last two games are any indication of her raw talent and ability, the rest of the WNBA is going to be in trouble. The Atlanta Dream have drafted themselves one hell of a player.

Storm Coach Gary Kloppenburg heaped praise on Carter after the game.

“She’s just a scoring machine. You know, a gifted player comes along every so often that just can score in a variety of ways. She’s tough. We were going to come trap her, she split some traps. We were trying to get it o
ut of her hands, we tried to do some different things, keep her on the sideline. She’s really good at finding a way to get to where she needs to get to. That’s a good young team right there. They play really hard, they’re well-coached. We fortunately were able to get a little bit of separation there in the fourth because some of the shots they threw in down the stretch were really unbelievable. Especially those threes they made in the last minute. She’s the real deal. She’s really hard to handle. A rookie who can come in and do that is a pretty special situation.”

Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada both made comparisons to NBA 76ers legend Allen Iverson.

“I saw her play when she was a McDonalds All-American in Chicago. I knew she was going to be the real deal. I was a fan of hers then and obviously from college. She kind of reminds me of Allen Iverson a lot. She’s a strong guard, crafty on the ball, she’s going to be good for this league. She’s definitely going to be a problem as she continues her career.” Loyd said

Canada added:

“I don’t think you can compare her to anybody to be honest. I think if I had to say anybody, I would probably say Allen Iverson. I mean, she’s just crafty, her handles are probably one of the best in the league, just the way she’s able to create her own shot, just her speed and everything, so I was saying Allen Iverson.”

I asked Jordin after the game what it was like to have the assignment to guard her.

“We knew coming in that Chennedy Carter makes them go. She’s a scorer, she’s a natural scorer, she’s really good off the dribble, she can create her own shots. We just try to pressure her as much as we can. At the beginning of the game, just trying to be aggressive, just trying to get her tendencies. I knew she was right-handed and she likes to drive right, so just trying to stay on her right side and get some pressure on her. That was the game plan. Obviously down the stretch she still gave us 35 or something like that, she was still able to create her own shot but just trying to put her in a situation that was difficult for her as much as possible. That was the game plan and just me trying to stay aggressive.”

Storm’s #1 picks respond

In the 4th quarter the Storm were carried by their two (active) number one overall picks Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart. They combined to score 20 of Seattle’s 26 points in the final period. Both players came through with clutch plays. I truly felt they were the difference between Seattle holding on to secure the victory and falling apart/giving the game away to the Dream after dominating the first 25 minutes of the game. This game could have easily turned into a loss but Seattle’s two stars wouldn’t let that happen.

Stewart finished with a team-high 27 points, 8 rebounds and two blocks. Loyd finished with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Coach Kloppenburg talked about their performance after the game.

“I think they both (Loyd and Stewart) made some big plays, got to the free throw line. It’s our league. You rarely are going to get a lot of separation against teams in this league. I give them a lot of credit, I thought they probably outplayed us in the second half and took the momentum back. We got a couple of key stops. [Chennedy] Carter was really something. We tried to throw almost everything, including the kitchen sink at her, and she’s a good one. It’s a good young team over there, so we feel fortunate to get this win.”

Jordin Canada added, “They’re our go-to players. Stewie’s our star player. So we know down the stretch we gotta get her the ball in iso situations. Running plays for her and Jewell, being able to play two man game and get them touches. Trying to find them plays and space and movement to get them going because we know we’re going to need them down the stretch. And they’re always going to come through for us!”

I asked Stewart about her and Jewell’s ability to keep the team going and secure the win after Atlanta had all the momentum late in the game.

“I had a strong start and then the 2nd and 3rd quarters were rough. But (I had to) stay in the game. Not losing myself mentally….”

“When we needed big plays Jewell and I made them.” ~ Stewie

“….That just shows our growth. Really as a team we had composure down the stretch. We knocked down free throw, we made shots and they (Atlanta) made some three’s.”

Clutch Free Throws

Free Throws are often taken for granted. The other night against Los Angeles Seattle missed several key free throws late in the game making the game much closer than it needed to be. On Thursday night against Atlanta, Seattle needed literally every single one of them.

Ryan Rucco on the announce team said these two teams are making Mark Price proud. Price was one of the NBA’s all-time greats when it came to career Free Throw percentage.

On Thursday night, the Atlanta Dream went 20-20 from the foul line. The Storm responded back going 25-27 including 15-16 in the 4th quarter. The Dream knocked down 3 three-pointers in the final 15 seconds of the game including one at the buzzer from about 30 ft out by Carter. They started fouling Seattle every play with about 35-40 seconds to go in the game. The Storm knocked down every single free throw in the final minute of the game. Seattle won the game by just one point.

Coach Klop talked about the importance of the free throws after the game.

“We needed every one of them. After that L.A. game we’ve been putting more time in on our free throws so it hopefully paid off tonight. They’re a difficult team. They have penetrating guards, they have skilled guards, they’re aggressive up in the front lines. It’s difficult — you want to try to not foul but they’re really aggressive and physical. We needed every one of those 25 tonight to get out of here with a W.”

Standout Plays

  • Jordin Canada had two amazing passes in the first half of this game. First she had a long outlet pass from probably 75 ft away from the basket and dropped right into Stewie’s hands for an easy layup like a touchdown pass by Russell Wilson. Then in the second quarter Canada had a disgustingly beautiful one-handed bounce pass to Jewell Loyd through multiple defenders and Loyd was able to finish the play with a nice layup.

  • Canada pick-pocketed Chennedy Carter twice in this game shortly after Carter reached past half-court. Both times Canada was able to score the easy basket during the breakaway fast break. Commentator LaChina Robinson had a great quote after it happened.

    “This is the mark of a great defender. Jordin Canada had been watching Chennedy Carter handle the ball throughout this game. And now she knows where her s
    weet spot is. She knows where the ball is exposed and how to pick her pocket. That’s the 2nd time it’s happened.”

  • Chennedy Carter made a lot of plays. Her ability to get to the basket is already at an elite level. Jordin Canada is one of the best defenders at the point guard position. And Carter was scoring at will, especially in the 2nd half when she totaled 24 of her 35 points.

    Carter did have one significant block against Jordin Canada in the 4th quarter where she rose up high and swatted the ball and Canada to the ground. A little revenge for the two steals Jordin got on her earlier in the game.

  • With just about two minutes to go in the game and the Storm clinging to a five point lead, Stewart knocked down a wide open three that put Seattle up eight at 81-73. Stewart would score 9 points in the final two minutes of the game.

Around the W

The Connecticut Sun (1-5) got their first win of the season defeating the inexperienced Dallas Wings (2-4) by a score of 91-68. Surprisingly, DeWanna Bonner did not have a great game in the win. Bonner entering the game against Seattle on Tuesday was averaging nearly 28 points per game. Alysha Clark and the Storm held her to just five points in Seattle’s 87-74 victory. In Thursday’s win, Bonner had just eight points. Brionna Jones, fresh off her career-high against Seattle, led the team with 17 points. Alyssa Thomas added 15 points and 10 rebounds and Jasmine Thomas had 14 points and nine assists.

The Wings starters were abysmal outside of Arike Ogunbowale who led the team with 17 points. The other starters scored 5, 6, 2, and zero points. You won’t win very many games in the WNBA if your starters only score 30 points. Isabelle Harrison and Tyasha Harris added 12 and 10 points off the bench in the losing effort.

In the night cap the Phoenix Mercury looked like legit title contenders taking apart the Chicago Sky 96-86 and leading by as many as 17 points. The Mercury’s NEW Big 3 had their best game together as they did most of the damage. Both Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner scored 22 points each and Skylar Diggins-Smith 17. Taurasi also flopped multiple times in the game and it irritated Chicago Coach James Wade so much that he picked up two technical fouls in the 4th quarter and was ejected from the game.

The Sky were led by Kent, Washington’s own Courtney Vandersloot. Sloot scored 21 points and had a game-high eight assists. Her wife and former Storm player, Allie Quigley, added 13 points and Kahleah Cooper scored 18 points as well.

Up Next

It’s Seattle’s arch-rivals the Phoenix Mercury at Noon on Saturday August 8th on ABC. WATCH IT! Despite starting the season off 0-2 the Mercury have rebounded extremely well winning four games in a row. They currently own the 3rd best record in the WNBA.

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3 comments

james.jewell@gmail.com August 7, 2020 - 6:54 PM

Good writeup! Can’t wait for the game against PHX tomorrow 🏀

Reply
james.jewell@gmail.com August 7, 2020 - 6:54 PM

Good writeup! Can’t wait for the game against PHX tomorrow 🏀

Reply
james.jewell@gmail.com August 7, 2020 - 6:54 PM

Good writeup! Can’t wait for the game against PHX tomorrow 🏀

Reply

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