Without Bird or Stewart Seattle still wallops the Phoenix Mercury 83-60

by Kevin Nesgoda

(Bradenton, FL) – A stellar defensive effort by the Seattle Storm lifted them to an 83-60 victory over the Phoenix Mercury. It was Seattle’s 7th win a row as they inch closer to securing the #1 overall seed as the WNBA’s regular season comes to a close this weekend.

This game was reminiscent of the 2019 season as Seattle had to play without both Sue Bird (left knee) and Breanna Stewart (left foot) who were both dealing with injuries they suffered in Wednesday’s game against the Dallas Wings.

The Stats

Seattle used a balanced attack with six players scoring in double figures led by Jordin Canada who had 13 points.  Natasha Howard scored 12 points and had five rebounds.  It was Howard’s 11th game in a row scoring ten or more points.  Jewell Loyd, Mercedes Russell, Ezi Magbegor, and Crystal Langhorne all scored ten points in this game.  Alysha Clark was nearly the 7th player to score double digits with nine points and seven rebounds.  

Seattle wasn’t the only team dealing with injuries. Phoenix was also severely short-handed and it showed. 6’ 9” Brittney Griner left the Florida Bubble after the August 19th game against the Los Angeles Sparks. Bria Hartley who was a legit candidate for 6th woman of the year award before tearing her ACL last appeared on August 28th against the Washington Mystics. On top of that, the Mercury were also without Forwards Nia Coffey and Alanna Smith who were both out with injuries and unavailable. That left Phoenix with just eight healthy bodies in this game. Including a couple of players, they just signed recently.

With that said, it was still a bit surprising to me that Phoenix came out so flat in this game against Seattle with so much to play for. A win for the Mercury on Friday would have been huge because it would have locked them into the 4th overall seed and a first-round bye. But they didn’t have much fight in them at all midway through the first quarter and started waving the white flag after half time. Diana Taurasi did not play in the 2nd half at all. And Skylar Diggins-Smith only played for a few minutes into the third quarter before being removed from the game.

With Griner out, Seattle’s gameplan was simple. Offensively, attack the basket at every opportunity. Defensively, lockdown Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith and force the other Mercury players to beat them. They were incredibly successful with both gameplans.

The Storm had a 42-12 advantage with points in the paint for this game. Seattle’s starting frontcourt combined for 31 points. Ezi Magbegor and Crystal Langhorne combined for 20 points off the bench as well.  51 total points from Seattle’s bigs in this game.

Diana Taurasi and Skylar Diggins-Smith entered this game as the top-scoring duo in the WNBA this season averaging a combined 38.0 PPG.  Behind the incredible defense of Alysha Clark and Jordin Canada, they were held to a combined seven points.  Taurasi shot 1-3 and played just 11 1/2 minutes scoring five points.  Diggins-Smith, who has tremendous as of late, was even worse.  In 17 1/2 minutes, she went 0-6 from the floor and scored just two points on a pair of free throws.

With no Griner in this game and Taurasi and Diggins-Smith struggling, the Mercury’s offense was abysmal.  Phoenix had three quarters where they scored 14 points or less.  The Mercury shot a pathetic 24% (15-62) Field Goal percentage.  I think at one point the CBS announcer said they couldn’t hit water out of a boat.  Phoenix shot just 3-25 (12%) from long distance and frankly, they were not competitive in this game from the opening minutes.  

Seattle led 50-26 at half time and by as many as 38 points in the 2nd half.  Seattle shot 47% (31-66) from the floor and a modest 41% (7-17) from three-point range.  The Storm held a small rebounding advantage 36-32.  And a more substantial advantage in assists at 22-12.  Seattle leads the WNBA in assists per game at right around 22 so they hit their average.  Both teams turned the ball over too much with Phoenix finishing with 17 and Seattle 16 giveaways.  

Around the W

The Atlanta Dream (7-14) kept their playoff hopes alive by winning against the Connecticut Sun (10-12). Guards Chennedy Carter (22 points) and Courtney Williams (20 points) led the way in scoring for the Dream. Betnijah Laney continues to impress with another double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. She has done an outstanding job this season and will be one of the finalists for the Most Improved Player of the Year award this season. Monique Billings also chipped in with 13 points and eight rebounds off the bench.

The Connecticut Sun’s starters struggled in this game with only DeWanna Bonner scoring in double figures with 17 points and eight rebounds. Alyssa Thomas had a near double-double with nine points and nine rebounds. Natisha Hiedeman and Kaila Charles chipped in with 13 points apiece off the bench. Connecticut’s bench combined for 37 points.

The Chicago Sky (12-10) snapped their four-game losing streak to defeat the Dallas Wings (7-14) by a final score of 95-88. It’s a devastating loss for the Wings who appeared to have the 8th and final playoff spot wrapped up after defeating the Washington Mystics for a 2nd time this season last week. The Wings have now lost four of their last five games.

Cheyenne Parker led four Sky players in double figures with 23 points and seven rebounds. Oregon Rookie Ruthy Hebard got the start in this game and scored 22 points on 9-12 FG shooting and a game-high eight rebounds in the win. Courtney Vandersloot had another double-double with 15 points and 12 assists. She finished the season with a league-best 9.95 Assists per game. No player in the WNBA has ever averaged 10 Assists per game. Lastly, Kahleah Copper added 12 points, six rebounds, and five assists.

For the Wings, Arike Ogunbowale did everything she could to will her team to victory but it just wasn’t enough. Ogunbowale finished with 38 points on 13-26 FG shooting (50%). Only two other players on Dallas scored in double figures with Marina Mabrey scoring 11 points and dishing out a team-high seven assists. And Kayla Thorton added 11 points and six rebounds off the bench.

If you’ve enjoyed this and want even more content, analysis, discussions, quarter by quarter breakdowns, standout plays, and several interviews; consider checking out the Complete Edition at the link below!

Complete Edition: Without Bird or Stewart, Seattle dominated the Phoenix Mercury.

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