The Seattle Storm continued their successful season Saturday night with another strong home victory 91-84, this time over the red-hot Dallas Wings in front of a sellout crowd of nearly 10,000 fans. Dallas was the hottest team in the WNBA entering Saturday’s game against Seattle, having won five straight games. Seattle’s five game win streak was ended on Tuesday in a 77-75 OT loss to the Los Angeles Sparks.
With the win over Dallas, Seattle has yet to lose back-to-back games this season. They are the only team in the WNBA this season that has not lost multiple games in a row. Seattle now moves to a league leading 16-6 after the 91-84 victory over Dallas.
This game was another close back and forth affair. There were 20 lead changes throughout the game and five ties. Neither team led by more than four points in the first half. Dallas led 27-25 after the first quarter and Seattle took a two point 46-44 half time lead. At one point, Seattle got up by as many as 12 points in the 3rd quarter, but Dallas finished the quarter strong on the back of Skylar Diggins-Smith. Both teams scored 18 points a piece in the 3rd quarter and the Storm entered the fourth quarter with just a two point lead 64-62. While Dallas kept the game very close and even had a one point lead with two minutes to go, Seattle would ultimately outscore the Wings 27-22 in the fourth quarter for a final score of 91-84. Sue Bird, who was fighting an unannounced illness most of the game, hit a game clinching 3-pointer with just barely over one minute left in the game.
MVP! MVP! MVP!
Breanna Stewart has been incredible this season. She is currently the front runner to win the WNBA MVP award as she leads the league in scoring at 22.5 points per game. She is fourth in the league in rebounding at 8.1 rebounds per game. She is also 2nd in the league in advanced statistic PIE (Player Impact Estimate) at 19.1. But the most important statistic of all is that Stewie has led the Storm to a WNBA best 16-6 and .727 winning percentage.
In Saturday’s game, she was even better than her season averages as she absolutely dominated the game. Stewart led all scorers with a season high 35 points and also pulled down 10 rebounds, including five offensive rebounds. Stewart shot 12-22 from the floor (55%) including 3-6 from 3-point range and 8-10 from the Foul Line.
During the post game interview, Jewell Loyd got the “MVP!” chants going and the sellout crowd at KeyArena gladly chimed in, raining “MVP! MVP! MVP!” chants down onto the 3rd year player out of UCONN.
And while Loyd continues to struggle with her shot (3-15 from the floor), which is an unfortunate pattern as of late. It would be ignorant to not acknowledge her other contributions to the team. Loyd scored 13 points including 6-8 from the foul line, led the team in assists with six, including several nice passes to Natasha Howard. And Loyd was also 2nd on the team in rebounding with eight, just behind Stewart’s 10. Loyd also had two steals and zero turnovers.
Natasha Howard also had a very nice game, displaying why some believe she should be a WNBA All-Star this season and why she is a front runner for Most Improved Player of the Year Award. Howard was second in scoring for Seattle with 17 points. She also had five rebounds. Howard was also responsible for trying to defend Dallas’ 6’ 8” Center Liz Cambage, which certainly is no easy task.
Rookie Jordin Canada ended up getting more playing time than expected in this game due to Sue Bird’s apparent illness. Canada had one of her better games as a rookie, playing 19 minutes scoring 8 points and also earning four rebounds, two assists and two steals. She was able to aggressively get to the basket a couple times using her top of the line speed to blow past the defense. She also played strong defense and forced Dallas into a couple turnovers and a forced timeout when she trapped Skylar Diggins-Smith with the help of Natasha Howard in the 2nd period.
Dallas came into Seattle with a five game winning streak, and looked like the team that had just blown out Phoenix and LA in back-to-back games. The Wings gave the Storm everything they could handle in the tough contest between two teams heading to the playoffs. None more impressive than the 6’ 8” Center Liz Cambage who was completely dominant at times. Cambage finished the game with a team high 23 points on 10-15 FG shooting. Often Cambage just needed to catch the ball below the hoop and it would be an automatic two points. There was not much Seattle could do to stop the 6’ 8” Center from Australia.
Skylar Diggins-Smith is quickly becoming the best overall point guard in the WNBA. She may not quite have the basketball acumen that Sue Bird has, but she can do everything. Diggins-Smith is in the Top 10 in the WNBA in scoring and is 3rd in assists per game just behind Sue Bird and Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot. Diggins-Smith finished the game with 21 points, 7 assists, five steals and zero turnovers. She single-handedly brought the Wings back in the 3rd quarter after they were down by 12 points. Several of those five steals were against Sue Bird who surprisingly had six turnovers in this game, most likely due to being very ill and under the weather.
The Wings also got great contributions from Kayla Thorton, who scored 18 points on 7-9 shooting, including three 3-pointers. Thorton did most of her damage in the first half against Seattle and led all scorers going into half-time.
Rough Roads Ahead
The win against Dallas was especially important because Seattle will now play 9 of their next 10 games on the road. Seattle is going to have to play well on the road if they want to hang onto the top spot in the WNBA. It is imperative for Seattle’s Championship aspirations that they finish the season in the top two in the standings. The top two teams in the WNBA automatically advance past the first and 2nd round of the playoffs, they avoid all one game elimination series and automatically advance to the semi-finals. Meaning just one playoff series win with home court will advance you to the WNBA Finals.
Seattle is currently 6-2 on the road and has the league’s best road record. However, they are going to have to prove it over these next 9 games. The Storm finish the final 12 games of the season with only three games at home and nine on the road, including 9 of their next 10 games away from KeyArena. It’ll be their toughest test all season, but will also help provide the team with experience heading into what could be the most important post season for the franchise since 2010.