The Storm’s timely victory got the team back on the right side of .500.
Coming off of a skid where they had lost four of their previous five games, the Seattle Storm desperately needed a victory in their home closer on Sunday against the Atlanta Dream. Led by their signature high-intensity defense, Seattle got off to a big lead early in the first quarter and never gave it back, resulting in a 92-75 victory. After being stuck in a deep offensive slump the last few games, the Storm scored 90 or more points for just the third time on the year — Seattle is undefeated in those games.
After the victory, Storm veteran Alysha Clark mentioned that the team’s week of high-intensity practice helped contribute to the victory. Heading into this game against Atlanta, the Storm had gone four days at home since their previous game: “This week was a little bit different, the intensity was different, the focus was different. And so coming out here today with that intensity and that focus and [having] it actually showing and translating over — it was much-needed.”
Jordin Canada was the catalyst for the Storm’s offense, scoring a team-high 21 points in the victory. What was crucial about Canada’s performance wasn’t the sheer number of points getting put on the board, but instead the efficient and creative way she was creating baskets for the entire team. With Canada’s outside shooting numbers mostly unchanged from last season, her path to creating good offense is with proactive cuts through the key — whether she’s the off-ball cutter, or the passer hitting cutting teammates. Canada’s abilities as both a cutter and a passer were on display against the Dream, helping Seattle build their early lead:
Canada discussed the need for offensive flow after the game: “I think we’re at our best when we’re moving the ball. And, you know, the last few games, we were kind of stagnant, playing one-on-one offense, and we weren’t really playing together as a team. And we know when we’re moving the ball, we’re flowing, we’re in pace, that’s our best basketball.” Canada also mentioned that, despite the career-high in points, she didn’t feel that the game against Atlanta was her best effort of the season, instead mentioning an early July victory over the Dallas Wings were she had 12 assists and no turnovers. (Canada had eight assists and three turnovers on Sunday.) With five steals against the Dream, Canada also edged ahead of teammate Natasha Howard in the league-wide race for most steals per game. Teammate Jewell Loyd is also top-10 in the same category, all of which has helped Seattle hold the league lead in steals per game as well.
More from Seattle Storm
- Sue Bird says goodbye as Las Vegas Aces advance to WNBA Finals
- 3 Must-watch matchups in Storm, Aces WNBA Playoffs series
- Seattle Comes Back Late, Beats Washington In Game One
- What’s happening with Tina Charles?
- Your Day in Women’s Basketball, October 8: The Storm are WNBA champions. What’s next?
Seattle’s strong burst out of the gate in the first quarter is one of the team’s unlikely signatures — only the league-leading Washington Mystics and Connecticut Sun have better first quarter scoring margins than the Storm do on the season. Getting down in a sudden double-digit hole sent Dream head coach Nikki Collen shuffling through her bench in search of productive combinations. All 11 healthy players for Atlanta saw the floor by early in the third quarter. Eventually Collen found energy from bench players like Monique Billings (tied for a team-high 15 points), Alex Bentley, rookie Maite Cazorla, and mid-season acquisition Alaina Coates. While Dream starter Renee Montgomery played a vital role in keeping Atlanta in the game, quickly canning 5-of-7 three-point shots, Collen trusted her bench for much of the second half. Billings (21 minutes) and Cazorla (19 minutes) ended up getting slightly more run than regular starters Jessica Breland (18 minutes) and Brittney Sykes (17 minutes).
The scoring margin in the game’s second half actually ended up being a tie. After the game had not been within single digits since the first quarter, Atlanta suddenly brought the game within four points with just 4:30 remaining. Reflecting afterwards, Seattle’s Clark was not surprised by the resurgent effort from the Dream, even though Atlanta does sit at the bottom of the league standings: “They’re professionals just like we are, they play basketball just like we do. So, we know they’re going to make a run. That’s the type of team they are, they don’t quit. And that’s why they’ve been able to get some of the wins they’ve gotten in here recently.” Not only did Atlanta get a double-digit win when they travelled to Seattle in early July, but the Dream were also the only team to earn a winning record over the Storm during last year’s championship run.
Postgame, the Storm’s thoughts immediately went to the upcoming three-game road trip that will close their season: in Phoenix on Tuesday, Los Angeles on Thursday, and Dallas on Sunday. The trio of games are not only important for Seattle’s fate in playoff seeding, but also for the team to continue playing the productive, up-tempo offense that they played agains Atlanta. Clark said: “I think today was really important for us before we went on this road trip to just get us back in rhythm, get us back in focus, before we hit the road, because we need these ones on the road to be able to have a playoff [game] here.”
Storm coach Dan Hughes indicated that the team’s performance across the three-game slate will be an indication of how the team ends up performing in the playoffs: “I think this road trip is actually a great opportunity for us to find if we’ve arrived, because I think to do damage in the playoffs we’ve got to do damage on this road trip. I really believe that. So the journey is going to teach us all we need to know.”
At 16-15, the Storm sit as the seventh overall seed, in-between the Minnesota Lynx (17-16) and Phoenix Mercury (15-16). Just like Seattle, Minnesota will also be traveling to face both Phoenix and Los Angeles. With the fifth-seed Chicago Sky scooting out of reach, at 19-13, the Storm, Lynx, and Mercury are still only separated by a game and a half. The remaining regular season games will absolutely determine which team hosts who in the opening single-game-elimination round of the WNBA playoffs.
Love our 24/7 women’s basketball coverage? Join our Patreon now and support this work, while getting extra goodies and subscriber-only content for yourself.