Seattle Storm blot out the Connecticut Sun 87-74

by Kevin Nesgoda

(Bradenton, FL) – The Seattle Storm improved to 4-1 on the season as they defeated the Connecticut Sun 87-74. Breanna Stewart led the way, as she typically does, with a game-high 22 points, five rebounds, and five blocks! Stewart really had her outside jumper working in this game. Stewart shot 8-16 from the floor including 3-5 from beyond the arc. She was one of five Storm players to score in double figures. The others being Canada, Clark, Loyd, and Whitcomb.

It wasn’t all pretty though. Seattle’s offense really struggled in the first half of this game. Stewart was the only player getting anything going in the first quarter scoring nine of Seattle’s 16 points. The Storm trailed 19-16 after one. A nice 12-4 rally to begin the 2nd quarter had the Storm up 28-23. But the Sun would battle back and retake the lead at half-time, 40-38, behind Brionna Jones’ career night. Jones had 18 points just in the first half alone which tied a career-high.

Sami Whitcomb spoke to media after the game about some of those struggles in the first half.

“Our spacing wasn’t good, ball was sticking, staying on one side, so I think we were just trying to move it a bit more, get the ball through hands, make them play defense a little bit longer, and I thought we did a better job of that. There were still times I think we got a bit stagnant but I do think the ball moved better and I think we just a bit more fluid in our flow.”

In total, Connecticut only had three players score in double figures. Jones led with 20, Alyssa Thomas had a strong double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Jasmine Thomas added 11 points and four assists.

Jordin Canada talked after the game about how the team needed to focus on stopping Jones in the 2nd half.

“Brionna Jones. She killed us in the first half and we knew that we had to put some lockdown pressure on her, making sure that we were putting her in pick-and-rolls and being able for her to guard us on the offense end, just pushing the ball and getting some movement. We were a little stagnant in the first half on the backside, so just making sure that we’re flowing, but I think that we did a better job of that in the second half.”

The Storm really took over the game in the third quarter where they outscored the Sun 23-13. The Storm would take an eight point lead (61-53) into the fourth quarter. Seattle’s defense clamped down on Connecticut and forced several turnovers. The Sun had 15 turnovers total compared to only nine for Seattle.

Trailing 45-40 in the third period, Seattle used a 37-13 run between the third and fourth quarters to put this one away. The Storm built their lead up to 19 points in the second half of this game.

Coach Kloppenburg gave his thoughts on the team’s performance after the game.

“I thought [Jordin Canada] did a really good job just penetrating [and] finding people. I think she had six assists. She’s tough to handle because she’s such a great penetrator and she can get down in there and finish around the rim. She hit her free throws tonight, she’s getting fouled, and then her defense, her pressure can really wear people down. I think that was part of the reason that second half I felt like we stepped up our defensive pressure, we turned them over I think 10 or 11 times in the second half and we converted, and we got some easy buckets off of them. She was a major part of that. And I thought Sami [Whitcomb] coming in off the bench did an outstanding job. We kind of had to have her running the point a little bit. We have some things we can use. We don’t always need a pure point guard out there. We can go through [Breanna Stewart] and some other players to initiate offense, but I thought Sami just did an outstanding job coming in off the bench tonight.”

Defense Wins Championships

Entering Tuesday’s game the Seattle Storm were #1 overall in defensive rating at 92.6. Seattle holds teams to the lowest scoring average in the league at 75 points per game and holds their opponents to 38% Field Goal shooting.

Seattle did an excellent job defensively on DeWanna Bonner who scored just five points in the entire game, all in the first half. Entering the game, DeWanna Bonner was averaging 27.5 points per game, which leads the WNBA in scoring. Alysha Clark had the primary defensive assignment on Bonner and was praised by Coach Kloppenburg after the game.

“I think Alysha Clark just did a tremendous job on [DeWanna] Bonner. She was principally on her all night. I thought she did a really good job denying her, getting her out of her comfort zone, getting her out of her sweet spots. We were going to bring a hard double-team to [DeWanna Bonner] in screen-and-rolls. I think we got her a little out of rhythm and she didn’t take a lot of shots. She took nine shots. I think [Alysha] Clark takes those star players on as a real challenge and I think she did just an outstanding job on her individually.”

Jordin Canada echoed those statements as well.

“AC is our lock-down defender. She guards the best players of every team. It showed tonight. It showed why she’s one of the best defensive players in the league. For her to lock-down DeWanna Bonner was huge for us. She does a lot for us and it goes unnoticed but we notice and we’re happy to have her as a teammate. I know I wouldn’t want to be guarded by AC so I’m glad she’s on our team.”

And while Brionna Jones set a new career-high with 20 points in this game. The Storm should be praised for their defensive adjustments made in the second half where she was held to just two points. Coach Klop talked about those adjustments after the game.

“I just felt like in the first half we didn’t respect [Brionna] Jones. She’s a really good low post player and we just let her bury us down in there deep. She got some easy deep post-ups and she can finish. She’s a very good low post player. Second half we had to come out with just a lot more physicality and I thought we did that. We were more in front of her, we wanted to stay physical, we were going to bring another body down on her, dig in and trap her. But I thought our post players did a lot better job on her second half to cut down her touches.”

Breanna Stewart also talked about how Seattle was able to come out stronger in the second half (outscoring Connecticut 49-34).

“I think the biggest difference was the fact that we made it really difficult for [Brionna] Jones. Obviously, once she gets her feet in the paint it’s kind of super tough to defend her because she’s so strong and that’s what changed in the second half. I think honestly our defense was solid, she just had 18 points in the first half. If you take that away, they had 22 points, and we kind of able to really pick it up all around defensively.

I think the thing is we know who everyone is in this league. We know they have some great players in [DeWanna Bonner, Alyssa Thomas, and Jasmine Thomas] and we wanted to make sure that we made it really difficult for them. They play a lot of minutes and they pl
ayed a lot of minutes in these first four games so we wanted to make sure that they continued to get tired. And they get tired offensively and defensively and really work for everything that they got.”

Standout Plays

  • Trailing 8-2 to open the game the Storm used a 7-1 run to tie the game. The seven points came from two nice jumpers by Breanna Stewart and a three by Jewell Loyd.

  • The Storm locked down Connecticut’s offense as Stewart blocked DeWanna Bonner. Bonner was able to get the ball back, but was unable to get a shot off. They forced the ball outside, Sami closed out defensively and the defense collapsed around the paint. Connecticut actually managed to get a decent shot off, but Stewart was able to get the rebound and made a beautiful outlet pass to Jewell Loyd who laid it up on the other end.

  • Jordin Canada was impressive offensively again in this game scoring 14 points. She had a beautiful drive to the hoop and then spin move to free herself from the defender to score the layup.

  • In the third quarter, the Connecticut Sun deflected a pass and Stewart raced to save the ball to Canada. Canada, being guarded by the much taller DeWanna Bonner, had to perform dribble cross-overs to create just enough space to get the 18 foot jumper off before the 24 second shot clock expired. The rainbow jumper went through the net and DeWanna Bonner threw up her hands as if to say “What more could I have done!?” A few seconds later the Storm stole the ball away and hit Alysha Clark cutting to the basket for a layup that forced Connecticut to call timeout.

  • Sami Whitcomb was huge for the Storm off the bench. She scored 15 points on 5-9 shooting including 3-5 from three-point range. Whitcomb hit a couple key threes late in the game that helped Seattle secure the victory.

Bigger Than Basketball

The WNBA made headlines on Tuesday as multiple teams donned a t-shirt saying “Vote Warnock” in a response against Atlanta Dream co-owner and United States Senator Kelly Loeffler who has been extremely outspoken against Black Lives Matter and pushing racist rhetoric during her campaign. Reverend Raphael Warnock is the Democrat opposing Kelly Loeffler for her senate seat in this year’s election.

All three Storm players that spoke to media after Tuesday’s game wore the “Vote Warnock” t-shirt. Breanna Stewart talked about the message after the game.

“I think what we’re trying to do is first educate ourselves and then educate everyone else. Initially, this kind of came from Sue [Bird] – Vote Warnock (t-shirt). I had the opportunity to be on two separate Zooms with him and kind of see what he stands for and what he’s fighting for. He’s someone that’s fighting to create change and fighting to be on the right side of things. Obviously, I’m not voting in Georgia, but continuing to use my platform to help push that. But I did vote today. I just want to let you know.”

Loeffler has spoken out against the Black Lives Matter movement and wholly opposed the WNBA using their platforms to support social justice this season. After word got out that players were wearing the “Vote Warnock” t-shirts Loeffler put out a statement that the WNBA players “were more concerned about playing politics than basketball.”

Jordin Canada was not thrilled to hear those comments by Senator Loeffler.

She said, “This is bigger than basketball. We’re more than just athletes. To have someone in our league that doesn’t represent or support African Americans who make up 80% of our league, it’s just disheartening. For her to say we’re all about politics, it’s not all about politics, it’s about basic human rights. We’re going to continue to support Warnock and everything he’s trying to do because we need Kelly out of there.”

Sami Whitcomb also addressed those comments.

“We’re very concerned with the leadership in this country and the people we want representing us. And the morals that they represent. (Loeffler’s) proven she doesn’t represent us, she doesn’t represent our voices, not in this league, not in the community. Reverend Warnock does and so we’re putting our support behind him.”

Around the W

The Chicago Sky improved to 4-1 on the season as they narrowly escaped the upstart Dallas Wings 82-79. The Sky had five players score in double figures including three players with 15 (Cheyenne Parker, Azura Stevens, and Allie Quigley). Arike Ogunbowale led the Wings (2-3) with 26 points in a losing effort.

The Phoenix Mercury used an impressive 4th quarter outscoring the Atlanta Dream 32-19 in the final frame to come from behind and win 81-74. Diana Taurasi had 18 of her 20 points in the second half. Rookie Chennedy Carter had a career-high 26 points in the loss. After starting the season 0-2, the Mercury have now won three games in a row.

Up Next

The Storm will face the Atlanta Dream (2-3) on Thursday 8/6 at 3:00pm on ESPN2. They then finish the week up with a highly anticipated contest between the Storm and their arch-rivals the Phoenix Mercury (3-2) on Saturday at 12:00pm on ABC.

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