KeyArena was rocking Sunday afternoon with nearly 9,000 Storm fans there to watch an epic clash between two of the top teams in the WNBA. Entering the game, the Storm had the best record in the league at 14-5 and the Washington Mystics came in with the 3rd best record at 12-6. From the get go, it felt like a playoff atmosphere in Seattle, and both teams did not disappoint during the contest. The Storm used a 31 point 3rd quarter and outscored the Mystics 53-45 in the 2nd half to win the highly contested bout 97-91.
Both teams got big contributions from several key players. The Storm were led by MVP candidate Breanna Stewart’s 25 points and 10 rebounds and had five players score in double-digits. This included key bench contributions from Crystal Langhorne and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. KML shot 80% from the floor (4-5 FG), including two three-pointers, for 10 points. Langhorne had her best game of the season, with 12 points and six rebounds in her new role off the bench. Alysha Clark hit several key three-pointers (3-3) in the game to help cut the Mystics lead in the first half and then put Seattle ahead for good in the second. Clark finished with 11 points. Jewell Loyd and Natasha Howard each had 9 points a piece.
Sunday’s victory for the Storm was a very special game for the franchise’s most legendary player, Sue Bird. Not only did Bird top the 6,000 point mark but she also surpassed Storm legend Lauren Jackson (6,007) with 6,016 points to become the Storm’s All-Time leading scorer. Bird teased in the post-game interview that it only took her an additional 6 years to surpass LJ so Lauren most have been doing something right. Bird said that if you’ve been around as long as she has, you better start topping some of the franchise’s all-time records. Bird’s high scoring games continued after scoring 18 points against Atlanta Dream on Friday night. Bird had 21 points and five assists in Sunday’s victory.
The Washington Mystics deserve a ton of credit. Not only did they push a very talented Seattle Storm team to the brink but they did it on a rare WNBA back-to-back, having to play the Los Angeles Sparks on Saturday night in LA (an impressive 83-74 Mystics win). The Mystics had five players score in double-figures. None more impressive than the 2015 MVP Elena Delle Donne who had a game-high 29 points and seven rebounds. Delle Donne used a variety of impressive moves to knock down three pointers, mid-range jumpers, and layups. She may be the most talented offensive player in the WNBA, but she also got a lot of help this game. Rookie Ariel Atkins was incredibly impressive, scoring 17 first half points including four three-pointers and another three-pointer where she drew a foul against Alysha Clark and knocked down all three free throws. Fortunately for the Storm, they held Atkins completely scoreless in the 2nd half which was key to the victory. Known Storm killer Kristi Toliver picked up the slack in the 2nd half and finished the game with 18 points including four three-pointers. LaToya Sanders and Natasha Cloud each had 10 points to round out the five players who scored in double-digits.
During the back and forth battle, there were thirteen lead changes and nine ties. The Storm led by one after the first quarter and trailed by two at halftime. The 31-20 point advantage in the third quarter was the difference in the game as it was the only quarter in the game where the score wasn’t within three points or less. At one point, Seattle went on a 17-4 run in the third period to take control of the game. Despite giving up a lot of offensive rebounds early on, the Storm out-rebounded the Mystics 36-30. Both teams did a good job of taking care of the basketball, with the Mystics turning the ball over just eight times and the Storm ten.
With the victory over the Washington Mystics, combined with the Phoenix Mercury’s loss in Atlanta earlier on Sunday, the Seattle Storm now hold sole possession of the number one overall record in the WNBA at 15-5. Seattle tied their win total from the 2017 season with 14 games left to play. The Storm are in prime position to get a first round bye in the WNBA Playoffs, awarded to the Top 4 teams in the league at the end of the season. If Seattle finishes with a Top 2 record, they will automatically get a bye for the first two rounds and host the semi-finals in Seattle. With the talent and veteran leadership they have on this team, that is now the goal, even if the focus remains one game at a time.
Seattle will need to remain tough on the road as nine of their final fourteen games will be played away from KeyArena. The Storm currently have the second best road record at 6-2 this season. However, next up is another home game on Tuesday at 12:00 pm against the Los Angeles Sparks.