The Storm played their final game at home before the 2016 Olympic break against the lowly San Antonio Stars. The Stars are the worst team in the league (5-17) and are without their leading scorer Kayla McBride.
Seattle got off to a hot start in the first quarter, led by Jewell Loyd's 13 points. For a moment it looked like the Storm might run away with this one early. But Alex Montgomery knocked down three 3-pointers in the first period to lead the comeback for the Stars. Moriah Jefferson also played very well, scoring 8 points of her own in the first quarter. Seattle led 29-21 after one.
After both teams had good offensive starts to the game, they both went ice cold. Each only scoring four points for the first seven minutes of the 2nd quarter. The Storm shot very poorly in the 2nd quarter and only managed seven points in the entire quarter. The worst scoring quarter all-season long. Fortunately, San Antonio wasn't much better scoring just 12 points themselves. Moriah Jefferson led the way for San Antonio with 14 points at the halftime; six points in the quarter (half of San Antonio's points). Seattle held a slim lead at half, 36-33.
Seattle tied their second quarter scoring output in less than two minutes into the 3rd quarter. Jewell Loyd continuing to lead Seattle on offense. Both teams got into a better offensive rhythm; especially early in the quarter. Breanna Stewart got her offense going in the 3rd and scored eight points in the quarter (she had just five in the 1st half). Seattle led 60-51 after three.
San Antonio started the fourth quarter on a good 8-3 run, to cut Seattle's lead to just four points (63-59). It really looked like the Stars were going to stay right there with the Storm all game long. But then Seattle went on an incredible 16-0 run, started by an impressive drive to the basket by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. A couple plays later, I saw the play that impressed me the most in this game. Breanna Stewart got a defensive rebound then started bringing the ball up the court. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was spotted at the 3-point line. However, had Stewart tossed the ball up to KML at this time, defenders would have been able to get to her and contest her shot (or even block it). Instead Stewie recognized this, drove the ball into the paint, forcing the defense to collapse into the paint. Stewart than kicked the ball back out to Mosqueda-Lewis, who then buried the 3 pointer. This put the Storm up 11 at 70-59 and forced the Stars into a timeout.
This was exceptional play-making ability by Stewart. But it's also a demonstration of the much improved play of Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis as of late. Over the past six games, KML is averaging 10.2 points per game and has been a very effective scorer off the bench. This is very important for the team's long-term success.
Seattle was led by Jewell Loyd's 25 points, three assists, three rebounds and one nasty block on Moriah Jefferson in the 4th quarter that resulted in a 24 second shot clock violation. Breanna Stewart did have shoot the ball well in this game (5-17 FG), but somehow still managed to score 22 points. A big factor was her ability to get to the foul line, as the top rookie went 9-11 from the foul line.
San Antonio was led by number two overall draft pick Moriah Jefferson who has really come on strong as the season has progressed; especially now that Kayla McBridge (San Antonio's leading scorer) is out for the season with an injury. Jefferson had 25 points, five rebounds, and three assists. She also had multiple pull-up jump shots that reminded me a lot of Sue Bird.
San Antonio Stars Coach Dan Hughes:
His thoughts on the game:
"Seattle's ability to play in transition totally separated it. When we turned it into a half-court game, then I felt like i was more a back-and-forth affair that we wanted to create. They got some transition points, that created some threes so that really separated things."
Thoughts on Moriah Jefferson's performance:
"She's been a real joy to watch evolve. And because of our situation with losing Kayla McBride, we have to ask her to score. So not only is she facilitating, she's becoming a basketball player that also takes on some of the scoring load."
On the Olympic Break and moving forward:
"For us, we need a little restart. We're a young team with an average age of about 26. We'll take that period to kind of evolve us a little bit in ways you don't normally get. Then we'll play an 11-game schedule and see if we're the better for it. There's usually a team or two that comes strong out of that break and we want to be that team because we're young. We're really in a building situation for the future."
Seattle Storm Coach Jenny Boucek:
Her thoughts on the game:
"We were solid defensively most of the game. It took us a little while to break through offensively but we did break through and get our offense geared up the way we wanted it to look. In the fourth quarter we played with a little more pace and movement offensively. We took some of the hesitation out that we had in the first half."
On Stewart struggling from the 3 point line and if she is encouraging her to attack the basket and draw fouls:
"We always want her to be doing everything. We want her shots to be all over the floor. Keeping people off balance. Taking what the defense gives her. We want to see diversity from her. All three times we've played them, they've given her the three (point shot). I didn't want her to turn those down even if she was missing. I want her to make them pay for doing that. So it's finding that mix; not just settling for jump shots."
Seattle flies to Minnesota to take on the defending champion Minnesota Lynx on Friday. This will be the final WNBA game for the Storm before the Olympic break.