On Friday night, we were praising the two young super stars of the Seattle Storm. Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart had just led Seattle to a dominant victory over Phoenix. Loyd had set a career high with 32 points and nine rebounds. Stewart had a near-triple-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. But that was Friday. And on Sunday, both players struggled mightily; especially on the offense side of the ball.
After setting a new career high with 32 points on Friday, Jewell Loyd had her worst game of the season. She had just three points total in the game; which came on four free throw attempts late in the first half. Other than that, she was held completely scoreless in the entire game. Nothing would fall into the basket for the second year player out of Notre Dame. Loyd was 0-8 FG shooting, including 0-5 from 3-point range.
Breanna Stewart, also struggled on offense more than any other game this season. Stewart ended up with just 8 points for the game. This is the first time in her short WNBA career where Stewie was held to single digits in scoring. In fact, she only had two points at half time and didn't score at all in the third quarter. She would end up shooting 4-12 from the floor; she was also 0-5 from 3-point range. Loyd and Stewart combined to shoot 0-10 from beyond the arc.
And as an entire team, the Storm shot just 5-22 from the 3-point line. Seattle shot 28-69 from the floor for roughly 41%. This was helped significantly by Alysha Clark who scored a new career high 23 points, on 7-7 shooting (2-2 from 3-point range) and 7-8 from the FT line. Ramu Tokashiki also had her best game of the season by far, coming off the bench to score 15 points on 6-8 shooting.
Sue Bird had another good game in general, with 13 points and 10 assists. But like Loyd and Stewart, she also had a terrible game shooting. Bird was just 3-12 from the floor. Whether the team was just exhausted from playing three games in a five day period; including traveling out to Indiana and back; or the ball just wasn't bouncing the right way for the home team. The Storm just could not buy a basket in this game.
After the game, Coach Jenny Boucek talked about a lack of energy before the fourth quarter rally:
"That was the energy we needed to play against this team, we just didn't find it until the fourth quarter. I thought we were a step slow and we weren't active and energetic the way we needed to be. The reality is this is our third game in five nights starting with a tough road trip but, when you become mature in all of this as a team, you learn how to play the way you need to play, whether you feel good or not. We're inconsistent right now in a lot of ways"
From my vantage point in tonight's game, it looked like the referees were not calling a lot of obvious fouls on the New York Liberty in the first half of the game. And they were also calling some very ticky-tack fouls on the Storm on the other end. It's very frustrating to watch the game being called unevenly at times. Even though this is something that will happen all the time; whether it's WNBA, NBA, or youth league games. There will be times where it seems the refs are being one-sided. The refs finally let both teams play in the 4th quarter and even seemed to swallow their whistle at times late in the game.
Sue Bird talked about the team's fourth quarter run and how the game was called earlier on:
"I think we're an up-tempo team, and it's hard to manifest that when a team is on the free-throw line pretty much the whole night, when a team is scoring the way that they were, so we could never get that part of our game going. But, once we did get stops, late in the fourth, and we were able to push it, we got the looks we wanted. Bottom line, we got a lot of good shots that, on an average day, I think we would make, but today we didn't."
After the game, Alysha Clark also talked about Seattle's big 4th quarter run:
"It took us a long time to get our energy up like that and we did it in the fourth quarter. I think we can see that, as a team, we can't afford to start slow and then try to make a push. That's going to come, it comes with experience, and being able to grow with one another so we just have to be consistent."
Despite the fact that Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart had combined for just five points at half-time, Seattle only trailed by one point with a score of 46-45. But it was a huge 3rd quarter for the visiting New York Liberty, where they out-scored Seattle 26-13 that would put them up by 14, going into the fourth and final frame. Seattle got down 16 points, before going on a 15-2 run in the 4th quarter to cut New York's lead to just three points at 73-76. At that point, Jewell Loyd had two opportunities for a three pointer and she missed them both. In a way it was fitting that former Seattle Storm guard, Tanisha Wright, would hit back to back jump shots to push New York's lead to 80-73 and prevent Seattle from making the huge comeback.
MVP candidate Tina Charles led the Liberty with a double-double 19 points and 13 rebounds. Sugar Rodgers came up big for the Liberty with 18 points and five assists. Shavonte Zellous came off the bench to contribute 12 points and four rebounds. Brittany Boyd also had a strong game off the bench, scoring 10 points and grabbing three rebounds in just 12 minutes.
Key Notes from tonight's game:
*Alysha Clark had a new career high with 23 points; this is the 2nd game Clark has led the team in scoring.
*Breanna Stewart set a career high with 17 rebounds!
*Seattle's top 3 scorers (Loyd, Stewart, Bird) combined to shoot 7-32 from the floor.
*The Liberty's Tina Charles leads the WNBA in both points per game (21.5) and rebounds per game (11.6).
Seattle gets a few days off before beginning a four game road trip, starting on Friday June 10th against the Connecticut Sun.