September 3, 2020
How the Storm avenged their loss to the Mystics
Washington prevented Seattle from getting the shots they wanted in their first matchup. This time, the Storm were ready for them.
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Washington Mystics v Seattle StormPALMETTO, FL – SEPTEMBER 2: Natasha Howard #6 of the Seattle Storm grabs the rebound against the Washington Mystics on September 2, 2020, at FeldEntertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
In just the third game of this season, the Washington Mystics handed the Seattle Storm their first loss of the season. The Mystics defense took the Storm’s offense out of rhythm and were never able to adjust. By preventing the Storm from pushing the pace in transition as they like to do, the Mystics forced them to adjust in the half-court and they didn’t.
We knew ahead of Wednesday’s rematch that the Mystics would employ a similar strategy. The Storm won 71-64 but still shot below 40 percent from the field. This time, Seattle was prepared for a grinding rock fight of a game and that’s what happened.
In their first matchup, the Storm made just 5-of-25 3-pointers and they followed that up with a 5-for-21 shooting night from outside. The Mystics were able to create and make good shots in their first meeting, but the Storm held them to 7-for-31 on 3’s this time.
Washington did not relent on the defensive pressure from their first matchup. The Mystics again set their defense early which allowed them to do things like deploy traps and shrink the passing and driving lanes. The only difference is the Storm were prepared for this defensive intensity.
When the double teams came, Seattle ball handlers knew they had to be ready to move the ball. To do so, the other four players couldn’t stand idly in the corner. The Storm moved well off the ball and utilized screens to create some good looks. Here are a few good examples of the Storm responding well to the Mystics defense.
Here, we see Jewell Loyd get the pass from Natasha Howard. Myisha Hines-Allen immediately pivots to helping on Loyd at the 3-point line, leaving Howard unguarded with an open driving lane. Loyd recognizes this and fires the ball back to Howard who races to the rim for a layup.
This time, Sami Whitcomb races around the baseline and a Mercedes Russell screen in the low post. Russell re-screens and catches Jacki Gemelos, Whitcomb’s defender. This frees up Whitcomb for an open 3-pointer she connects on.
Finally, Whitcomb starts at the bottom of your screen and cuts the baseline again. Russell screens Gemelos under the rim and Howard screens her again to free Whitcomb. This forced Tianna Hawkins to rotate over to attempt to close out on Whitcomb, but it was too late.
These are just a few examples of how the Storm had to adjust again and again to the defensive pressure from the Mystics. As Gary Kloppenburg mentioned after the game, you’re going to have to win ugly games sometimes. Aside from more activity on the offensive end, the Storm bringing their defensive pressure was a significant difference from the July 31 meeting between these two teams.
As the Storm look to secure homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs, they’re going to have to adapt and adjust as they did on Wednesday. The Mystics may not be in the same tier as the Sparks, Aces, and Lynx, but it’s encouraging to see them have a good counter-strategy in place.