(Seattle, WA) – The Seattle Storm are a lot like the great Greek Mythological monster the Hydra. When one head is cut-off two more appear in its place. People’s heads aren’t being cut-off but the Seattle Storm have had to deal with an absurd amount of injuries this season. And yet, the team keeps fighting, keeps battling back, and the players that are available continue to develop into even greater players than they already were.
It’s difficult to comprehend what Seattle has done this season. No Breanna Stewart, no Sue Bird, games without Alysha Clark and Jordin Canada, and for now, no Jewell Loyd either. And yet, the team now sits at 8-5 after a thrilling 79-76 victory over the Chicago Sky. The Storm are also a perfect 5-0 at home this season and they currently own the third best record in the entire league.
Players are really stepping up. Natasha Howard gets the most recognition as she’s transformed her game to All-Star levels and is a legitimate MVP candidate. Before going down with an injury this past Tuesday, Jewell Loyd had also stepped up her game and scoring consistency. And the two sophomore players Jordin Canada and Mercedes Russell have significantly improved their games from their rookie seasons.
So Breanna Stewart goes down with a season-ending injury and Natasha Howard goes from averaging 13 points and six rebounds a game in 2018 to 19 points and nine rebounds in 2019. Mercedes Russell is averaging nearly five more points and five more rebounds per game. Sue Bird is out and Jordin Canada has increased her scoring by an additional three points per game, improved her assists to 5.0 per game, and nearly tripled her steals, averaging a league-leading 2.9 steals per contest. I’m telling you, they’ve become a HYDRA!
Alysha Clark talked about the team’s resiliency after the game.
“I think it speaks to the character of each and every person on this team. We have a team of fighters. They had to fight to get in the league, they had to fight to be where they’re at or to get a spot, to get playing time. Whatever it is, we’ve fought to be at this level. We understand injuries happen and we hope that is the last one. But we’re not going to just roll over and quit. That’s not who we are as people. When you have a collective group of people who fight like that and have that fight within them, anything is possible.”
Alysha Clark with the best quote of the season
Jordin Canada also echoed those statements after the game.
“It’s not about who’s not here, it’s about who is here. We have that next man mentality. Everyone brings something to the table and we are piecing it together. We are going to continue to put the pieces together, continue to fight, and continue to show that resiliency.”
Jordin Canada on Next Man Up Mentality
Canada finished the game with 17 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals to lead the Storm in scoring. Canada also pestered Kent, Washington’s own Courtney Vandersloot all game long. Jordin really locked down Vandersloot and held her to just two points on 1-6 shooting.
In total, Seattle used a balanced effort with five players scoring in double figures. Natasha Howard had her worst shooting night of the season (3-14) but still managed to score 14 points and pull down nine rebounds. Her ability to get to the foul line (8-9) was key in the victory. Mercedes Russell (12), Alysha Clark (10) and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (11) were the other players in double figures.
Chicago countered with three players in double figures, led by Diamond DeShields’ 19 points and six rebounds, Jantel Lavender’s double-double 13 points and 10 rebounds and 11 points from Allie Quigley.
The Storm got off to a blistering hot start scoring a season-high 33 points in the first quarter. The team shot 57% overall and 57% from 3-point range. Alysha Clark got the Storm going scoring eight of the team’s first ten points. Mercedes Russell also came up big with eight points in the opening quarter. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis also came off the bench and knocked down two three-pointers. Seattle led 33-21 after the first.
The Sky cut into Seattle’s lead early in the 2nd quarter with an aggressive defense that forced Seattle’s bench players into a couple of turnovers. The Sky started the quarter on a 9-4 run, getting most of their points in transition. The starters were able to build the lead back up to twelve but could never get the lead beyond that. Chicago finished the final two minutes of the quarter on a 6-2 run to cut Seattle’s twelve-point lead to eight, 51-43 at half-time.
You knew the Storm’s hot shooting in the first quarter wouldn’t last, but they really went cold. Seattle started the game shooting 57% but finished the game shooting just 37% and less than 30% from beyond the arc. Chicago used another 6-2 run to open up the third quarter to cut Seattle’s lead down to just four.
The Storm only committed two turnovers in the first half but had five in the third quarter that allowed the Sky to erase the Storm’s lead. The Sky outscored Seattle 22-15.
The Sky would take a one-point advantage 61-60 on a Diamond DeShields jumper with 1:40 left in the third. Seattle would retake the lead but Gabby Williams would counter with a drive to the basket, scoring with just seconds remaining to cut Seattle’s eight-point half-time lead down to just one as the teams entered the fourth quarter.
It became a defensive battle in the final quarter and both teams had their lowest scoring quarter of the game. Both teams battled back and forth with three ties and two lead changes in the quarter. No team would lead by more than four points throughout the entire final period. Jordin Canada came up huge scoring seven of Seattle’s 13 fourth-quarter points. My favorite play of the game was a beautiful steal by Canada who absolutely picked the pocket of Diamond DeShields while DeShields tried to get the Sky into transition.
And it was Alysha Clark who hit possibly the biggest shot of the season so far with the shot clock running down, Clark drove to the hoop but was cut-off, she spun back around to the right and heaved up a hook shot from about 12 feet from the basket with about ten seconds left in the game to put Seattle back up by three.
“It might surprise some people, but those are the shots I’ve been shooting. I’ve been shooting them my whole career. Going up against big girls, you’ve got to find a way.”
Alysha Clark on her game-winning shot
After the game Coach Dan Hughes was thrilled with his team’s effort against a very talented Chicago Sky team.
“This was fun for me because I thought the team I’m coaching turned a page and said ‘what do we have to do now?’ If you have practice time with them, they value it. And they just have big hearts, God bless them. They build a trust in me that they’re going to answer the call. All we need to do is have some time with them together so they can understand who they are at that moment. But no matter how hard we’ve been hit, we’ve responded. As a coach you want to bottle that and keep it forever.”
Coach Hughes on the team’s ability to fight through adversity
Chicago Sky Coach James Wade was frustrated after the game and was visibly irritated in the post-game press conference.
“I don’t have any thoughts. They won. I don’t really look at stats. All I look at is wins and losses.”
Coach Wade’s thoughts on the game.
“We didn’t score. That’s all it was. I thought Natasha (Howard) got her hand on … stopped her follow through from going through. I don’t know if it’s a foul or not. I’m young in the game so evidently, I don’t know what’s a foul.”
On Chicago’s final possession
Diamond DeShields fell down after her shot as she had done so many times throughout this game. But with the game on the line, the refs swallowed their whistle and Seattle held on for the victory.
Chicago’s Jantel Lavender offered some more substantial thoughts after the game ended.
“I think our major downfall tonight was the first quarter. (Seattle) got off to a great start and we let their players go where they wanted to go … they found their open shots. They pretty much did what they’re good at. We found the energy later, but it just wasn’t enough. They got 33 points in the first quarter versus 28 points in the whole second half … we just have to start the game better.”
Lavender on Chicago’s poor start that cost them the game
“There were some adjustments, but it was more of a mindset thing. We just had to play more aggressive. I don’t think our aggressiveness was there. We just picked it up. It just shows what we can do when we have that intensity, but it’s a tough loss on the road because we do have what it takes. We beat this team twice at home and we know what to expect from them. Having Jewell Loyd out – we beat them with her (in the lineup) so we relaxed a little bit. And you can’t do that with good teams.”
Lavender on the adjustments made in the 2nd half
“It came down to execution. We were there. Alysha Clark hit a really, really tough, one-handed, off-the-glass shot. It was kind of like their night so it was tough. Just execution on those last plays – we didn’t get what we wanted down the stretch. You saw we had to call two timeouts to try to get what we wanted to run to even try to find Allie (Quigley). We have to be able to find her in those situations and we didn’t tonight. I just think we have to learn from it, go back and hopefully in the next couple of days we get a win.”
Lavender on execution in the final minutes of the game
I asked Jordin Canada how her knee felt and if she felt 100% after the game.
“My knee feels good. I haven’t had any pain. I’m just going to continue my rehab and get treatment on it. Tonight, I felt great even though I was falling a bunch of times. That’s my game, but I feel fine and had no problems.”
Canada on her injury status
The Seattle Storm get another rematch against their heated rival the Phoenix Mercury, Sunday in Seattle at Alaska Airline Arena at 4:00pm. The Storm defeated the Mercury in the opening game of the season with a 77-68 victory. However, Seattle will be without Jewell Loyd this time who had 17 points in that game.
It has been reported that Phoenix will still be without WNBA superstar Diana Taurasi as she continues to heal and recover from her back surgery in the off-season. Taurasi is expected to return any game now and has practiced with the team, but won’t suit up on Sunday.
The Mercury are coming off two wins in a row, including a major beat-down of the Indiana Fever on Friday 91-69.