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Seattle Storm early season recap

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The Storm are off to one of their best starts in recent history and we recap the past four games below.

Two #1 picks battle it out as Seattle’s Breanna Stewart lays it up past Las Vegas’ A’ja Wilson.
Neil Enns/Storm Photography

After the first two weeks of the WNBA season, the Seattle Storm sit at 5-2 and have the 3rd best record in the WNBA. We take a look back at how they got there as we briefly recap the past four games.

Final: Storm 105 at Aces 98 - W
On Sunday May 27th, Seattle headed to Las Vegas for the very first ever official WNBA game in Las Vegas. The San Antonio Stars were sold and relocated to Las Vegas before this season began and the Stars have now been renamed the Aces. MGM Grand CEO has discussed their interest in owning an NBA team as well and this may be a trial run by having the Stars now Aces play in Vegas. Similar to Seattle, Las Vegas/San Antonio has had back-to-back Number One overall draft picks. In 2017, they selected UW star player Kelsey Plum. In 2018, they drafted star Center A’ja Wilson out of South Carolina. While Plum has yet to fully adjust to the WNBA, A’ja Wilson already appears to be a star in the making. Wilson led Vegas with 27 points and 8 rebounds and was a dominant force down in the low post. The Aces also got help from former Notre Dame guard Kayla McBride (21 points, 4 rebounds) and Nia Coffey (23 points). Plum would finish with just four points in 10 minutes of play.

Seattle led wire-to-wire, and held off a strong rally from the Aces late in this game. The Storm led by 10 points after one period and by 18 at half-time. The Storm did just enough to leave Las Vegas with their 3rd victory in a row. As it becomes a common theme this season, the Storm were led by their new big three of Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and newcomer Natasha Howard. Stewie led the team with 23 points and 9 rebounds. Loyd added 20 points and a team-high 9 assists and Howard had 21 points and five rebounds. The Storm also got some hot-shooting off the bench from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis who had 13 points in 13 minutes in a reserve role.

Final: Mystics 77 @ Storm 81 - W
Seattle was red-hot to start this game, shooting lights out and would lead 29-20 after the first quarter. They lucked out a little as former WNBA MVP was a late scratch and missed the game. A huge credit has to go to the rest of the Washington Mystics as they could have easily folded, but they fought hard and rallied to keep this game close throughout the rest of the game. Kristi Toliver who has had Seattle’s number since her years back with the Los Angeles Sparks, led the Mystics with 20 points. Washington also got help from rookies Ariel Atkins 18 points and Myisha Hines-Allen who had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Former Seattle Storm 1st round draft pick Tiana Hawkins, returning this year after having a baby last season, was impressive with 17 points and 6 rebounds.

On the Storm front, Seattle was led by Jewell Loyd’s 27 points and 8 rebounds and Breanna Stewart’s 25 points and 5 rebounds. They also got major help from Natasha Howard, who continues to shine in her starting role with Seattle, who added 14 points and 7 rebounds. Seattle handed Washington their first loss of the season as the Mystics entered this game a perfect 4-0.

Final: Aces 74 @ Storm 101 - W
The Storm would rematch with the Aces just a few days later back in Seattle on Thursday May 31st and this one wasn’t even close. Seattle set a new all-time WNBA record by knocking down 17 three-point field goals. Jewell Loyd was on fire as she made 5-6 from 3-point range. Sue Bird and KML each shot 3-4 from the 3 point arc as the Storm buried the Las Vegas Aces in this game.

Seattle led 38-14 after just one quarter and would take a 28 point lead into half-time. The Storm were so dominant in this game that none of the starters played more than 24 minutes and a couple of them played less than 20. Seattle got 20+ point performances from both Breanna Stewart (21) and Jewell Loyd (20). They also got great play from the point guard position with Sue Bird and Jordan Canada. Bird had 11 points and 9 assists and Canada had 9 points and 7 assists off the bench. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had another strong game off the bench with 13 points. With the victory Seattle had won 5 games in a row and moved to 5-1 on the season.

Las Vegas #1 overall pick A’ja Wilson had 21 points on 8-12 shooting, but did not get much help from anyone else on the Aces roster.

An interesting side note, the Storm led Center Carolyn Swords (who they traded their 1st round pick for in 2017) walk and sign as a free agent with Las Vegas. In turn, the Storm signed former Dallas Wings Center Courtney Paris. While Paris hasn’t had a huge impact for the Storm this season, she has made a notable difference compared to what Swords brought a year earlier. Swords played 12 minutes for Vegas in this game and had zero points and one rebound. Paris by comparison played 17 minutes and had 8 points and 6 rebounds for Seattle.

Final: Storm 90 @ Wings 94 - L
The WNBA schedule makers were not so kind to Seattle as the Storm had to play 6 games in 11 days. While some other teams like Connecticut had only played 3 games this season, the Storm were playing their 7th. Fortunately they had handled it well for the most part, but boy did they run into a buzz-saw this past Saturday in Dallas. Due to so many games in a short period of time, Seattle rested Sue Bird giving Jordin Canada her very first career start.
Seattle came out completely flat and couldn’t buy a bucket. A definite sign that all the traveling and short turn-around of several games in different cities in less than two weeks was finally catching up to them. Dallas outscored Seattle 34-20 in the first quarter and held a 49-25 lead in the second period, nearly doubling up on the Storm in the first half. The Wings were led by their all-star point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith who had 27 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. And in what continues to be the biggest concern for Storm fans, they were dominated down low by Center Liz Cambage, who returned to the WNBA this year from Australia after a four year absence. Cambage was dominant down low and had 17 of her 25 points in the 4th quarter to seal the victory for Dallas.

Despite the horrific first half of play, the Storm deserve credit for continuing to battle and fight back. Seattle even tied the game back up in the 4th quarter after being down by over 20 points in the first half. Seattle got strong numbers from Stewart, Howard, and Loyd. Stewie had 28 points, 7 rebounds; while Howard had 19 points and a team-high 9 rebounds. Loyd added 16 points, which was actually one of her lowest scoring games this season. They also got a strong game from Jordin Canada in her first career start as she tallied 9 points, 9 assists, and five steals. Unfortunately, with Sue Bird out and Canada moved from the bench to the starting role, the Storm got almost nothing from their bench in this game. Five bench players contributed 12 points and that wasn’t enough to top Dallas.

The loss was only Seattle’s second of the season and ended the Storm’s five game winning streak. Seattle now sits at 5-2 and the 3rd best record in the WNBA.

Other News:
The Storm signed 6’ 6” rookie Center Mercedes Russell who was drafted by New York in the 2nd round of the 2018 WNBA Draft (22nd overall) but was recently cut by the Liberty. In doing so, Seattle had to create a roster spot and was forced to cut their own 3rd round pick (29th overall) 6’ 1” Teana Muldrow.

Russell got some decent playing time in the Storm’s blowout victory against Las Vegas on May 31st, tallying 17 minutes and collecting a game-high 8 rebounds.

It’s unfortunate that Muldrow had to be cut as she had showed some promising signs during training camp and the pre-season. It would be nice if the WNBA were able to expand their rosters similar to the NBA. Currently the WNBA is only allowed a maximum of 12 players on the team, whereas the NBA allows 15. The WNBA has major issues when it comes to younger (first or second year) players not being able to stay on rosters because the league only has 12 teams and 12 roster spots per team. Hopefully in the next few years the WNBA can look to either expand and add a couple more teams to the league or at least increase the roster limit to 13 or 14 - allowing another 12-24 players to be able to learn and compete in the top league.

Leading Ladies:
Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart continue to excel in their 3rd and 4th WNBA seasons. They currently have the 2nd and 3rd best scoring averages in the entire league. Stewie is at 22.3 PPG and Loyd is just behind her at 21.6 PPG. Stewart is also 6th in rebounds per game at 8.6. And Sue Bird is 2nd in Assists Per game at 6.3.

Lynx Watch:
Seattle has a vested interest in the Minnesota Lynx this season. As part of the Natasha Howard trade from Minnesota to Seattle, not only did Seattle trade away their 2nd round pick in the 2018 WNBA Draft (not a huge loss) but the Lynx also earned the rights to swap 1st round draft picks in 2019. Minnesota was banking on Seattle finishing either out of the playoffs or at least a Top 5 or 6 draft pick to recoup the loss of Natasha Howard. But at least early on this season, that plan has appeared to backfire for Minnesota. The Lynx who have been the most dominant WNBA franchise since the original Houston Comets (winning 4 titles in the past 6 years) have really struggled coming out of the gate this season. The Lynx bench has lost a lot of quality players this off-season, Natasha Howard being the biggest one and it seems to have really hurt them. The Lynx have started the season 2-5 and have the 3rd worst record in the WNBA currently after most expected them to be #1 or #2. While, it’s still so early and I think it’s more likely than not that they climb back into the Top 5; it is very interesting to see them not have the success they are used to the first two-three weeks of this 2018 s

What’s Coming Up:
The Storm finally had a few days of rest to relax and get their legs back. But it won’t get any easier as they play tomorrow, Thursday June 7th in Los Angeles against the Sparks. This will be a true test to see if Seattle is really one of the elite teams of the WNBA or if they have benefited from beating up on weaker teams so far. The game will air nationally at 7:30pm on ESPN2.

After this, Seattle heads up for a lengthy 5 game home-stand where they must take advantage of their schedule and continue to pile up some wins.