Seattle Storm: Takeaways from Tuesday’s win over the Fever

INDIANAPOLIS, IN JULY 24: Sue Bird #10 of the Seattle Storm handles the ball against the Indiana Fever on July 24, 2018 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN JULY 24: Sue Bird #10 of the Seattle Storm handles the ball against the Indiana Fever on July 24, 2018 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Seattle Storm defeat Indiana Fever for 19th win

In their final game before the WNBA All-Star break, the Seattle Storm picked up a 92-72 win on the road over the Indiana Fever on Tuesday night.

Echoing the common refrain for the Storm in 2018, Breanna Stewart was the star for Seattle. She posted her seventh double-double (26 points, 10 rebounds) of the season while adding five assists and one steal.

Natasha Howard and Jewell Loyd combined for 29 points in the victory, while Sue Bird scored 11 points and dished out 11 assists. Jordin Canada was excellent off the bench as well, finishing with seven points, three rebounds and four assists.

Kelsey Mitchell had 26 points for Indiana, but no other Fever player scored more than 14. The Storm held Indiana to 36.4 percent shooting and 29.4 percent on three-pointers.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the game.

Storm jump on Fever early

Although the Fever only have three wins in 2018, those three victories came against the second-place Atlanta Dream, defending champion Minnesota Lynx and 2017 runner-up Los Angeles Sparks.

Seattle couldn’t afford to let the Fever build any momentum, especially on their home floor. Not only that, but the Storm were also 13-0 when leading after the first quarter prior to Tuesday’s game. They’ve done well to start fast and protect their lead in 2018.

Seattle led 29-21 after the opening 10 minutes, which allowed the Storm to put Indiana on the back foot right out of the gate. In addition, Seattle built a big enough buffer to withstand whatever runs the Fever put together.

“First half we came out strong and then we kind of let things get away from us a little bit,” Stewart told reporters after the game. “We were a little sloppy. They closed the gap. And then third quarter we came out just being really aggressive. I wanted to kind of take things to another level, lead this team.”

Three-point shooting helps flatter margin of victory

The 20-point difference in the final score was almost equal to the gulf in three-point shooting between the two teams. The Storm made 12 three-pointers compared to five for the Fever.

Indiana actually had a slight 41-39 edge and was plus-three in terms of turnovers. The Fever also got 13 points from the charity stripe. This was far from a comprehensive victory for the Storm.

Indiana got the deficit down to eight points, 80-72, with 2:05 remaining before Bird hit a three-pointer to extinguish the Fever’s comeback attempt.

That was a microcosm of the game, as the Storm capitalized on its chances from deep, unlike the Fever. Indiana’s failure to establish a consistent presence beyond the arc was essentially impossible to overcome.

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Storm exploit Pondexter matchup

In general, the way in which Fever head coach Pokey Chatman uses Cappie Pondexter is puzzling. When you’re a rebuilding team, signing a 35-year-old guard and then making her a starter raises some questions, even when the player in question is a seven-time All-Star.

A surefire Hall of Famer such as Pondexter can have value to a rebuilding team as a mentor of sorts to the younger players.

It’s another thing when her arrival means moving those younger players down the rotation. Developing Kelsey Mitchell and Tiffany Mitchell should be Indiana’s priority.

Tuesday’s game in particular was an instance where both Pondexter and the Fever would’ve been best served by having her come off the bench.

Indiana was minus-23 during Pondexter’s 29:33 on the floor, and she finished with a 126.2 defensive rating.

Defense has generally been Pondexter’s strength in 2018, but she’s at a disadvantage regardless of whether she’s matching up with Bird or Loyd. The Storm’s offensive style and ball movement exploits what has been a major problem for the 35-year-old as well.

Pondexter has allowed opponents to score on 39.1 percent of their spot-up opportunities with the Fever, and she ranks in the 25th percentile in points per possession (1.043) in those situations, according to Synergy Sports.

By relying a little more heavily on Tiffany Mitchell and Erica McCall, the Fever might have found more success limiting Seattle from beyond the arc.

And by lining up Pondexter against Jordin Canada or Sami Whitcomb for longer stretches, she might have had a more positive impact on the game.

Breanna Stewart is very good

Crunched the numbers and accounted for all of the variables; every metric points to Breanna Stewart being a good basketball player and possibly one of the best in the WNBA. She’s one to keep on your radar.