August 5, 2020
The Storm’s shooting is a good measure for how well they play
Seattle's second-half run on Tuesday night showed the league how dangerous they can be.
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UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT/USA – July 20, 2018: Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd (24) about to shoot during a Seattle Storm vs Connecticut Sun WNBA basketball game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
Shooting is a large part of the Seattle Storm’s identity. After Tuesday’s 84-74 victory over Connecticut, Seattle ranked third in three-point makes and fifth in three-point attempts per game. The Storm shot 11-for-21 against the Sun, helping power them to victory.
Looking back at the Storm’s lone loss against the Mystics in which they shot 5-for-25 three-pointers, we see how important it is for them to shoot well. It’s not just important because the objective of the game is to score the most points and shots from beyond the arc are worth more.
No, it’s important because shooting well with a healthy shot volume means the Storm are at their best. They’re pushing the pace, not letting the defense get set, and making that extra pass to the open shooter. Those things didn’t happen enough in that loss to Washington but Seattle did these things often versus Connecticut, especially in the second half.
Seattle didn’t exactly run Connecticut out of the building on Tuesday. Behind 18 first-half points on 8-of-10 shooting from Brionna Jones, the Sun carried a 40-38 lead after 20 minutes of play. The Storm shot well and both the rebounding and turnover battles were nearly even. Breanna Stewart added 12 points and four rebounds to lead Seattle.
The Sun had earned their lead and it was clear the Storm needed to increase their defensive intensity. In the third quarter alone, Jordin Canada, Sami Whitcomb, and Alysha Clark all had points off of steals.
In total, the Storm forced nine second-half turnovers and scored 12 points from them. These opportunities led to a 22-5 Seattle run from the 2:13 mark in the third quarter until 4:44 remained in the fourth quarter. What was once a two-point game with eight lead changes and six ties was suddenly becoming a blowout.
A bad Sun pass would often lead to an easy shot at the rim or open jumper for the Storm on the other end. Seattle shot 8-for-12 on 3’s, 11-for-13 on free throws, and 15-for-31 overall from the field in the second half. Canada and Jewell Loyd also combined for six of Seattle’s 10 second-half assists.
Seattle’s ability to slow both DeWanna Bonner to five points on the night and Jones to just two points after a big first half was a testament to their defense.
“I just felt like in the first half we didn’t respect [Brionna] Jones. She’s a really good low post player and we just let her bury us down in there deep. She got some easy deep post-ups and she can finish. She’s a very good low post player,” said coach Gary Kloppenburg. “Second half we had to come out with just a lot more physicality and I thought we did that. We were more in front of her, we wanted to stay physical, we were going to bring another body down on her, dig in and trap her. But I thought our post players did a lot better job on her second half to cut down her touches.”
“I think Alysha Clark just did a tremendous job on [DeWanna] Bonner. She was principally on her all night. I thought she did a really good job denying her, getting her out of her comfort zone, getting her out of her sweet spots. We were going to bring a hard double-team to [DeWanna Bonner] in screen-and-rolls. I think we got her a little out of rhythm and I don’t think, she didn’t take a lot of shots. She took nine shots. I think [Alysha] Clark takes those star players on as a real challenge and I think she did just an outstanding job on her individually.”
Both Canada and Stewart backed up their coach’s emphasis on slowing Bonner and Jones. Stewart noted both players had played heavy minutes in their first four games and Seattle wanted to wear them down on both ends. Making them defend in the pick ‘n’ roll and close out on shooters by moving the ball were two ways the Storm did this, according to Canada.
We saw on Tuesday night how Seattle’s identity isn’t their shooting but has often been an indicator of how well they’re playing on a given night. When they’re getting stops, moving the ball, and not allowing opposing defenses to get set, they’re difficult to match up with because these things allow them to create quality, high-value shots from beyond the arc or at the rim.
Whitcomb succeeds in the backup point guard role
A big question through the Storm’s first few games was who would take lead ball-handler duties when Canada needed a rest. The Storm had tried both Epiphanny Prince and Sami Whitcomb to modest success. Whitcomb looked slightly more comfortable than Prince, who appeared like a natural off-the-ball creator.
With Prince away from the team for personal reasons, Whitcomb had her chance to show she can fill this role on Tuesday. Whitcomb responded with 15 points, three assists, and four rebounds on 5-for-9 shooting.
“I thought Sami [Whitcomb] coming in off the bench did an outstanding job. We kind of had to have her running the point a little bit. We have some things we can use. We don’t always need a pure point guard out there,” said Kloppenburg. “We can go through [Breanna Stewart] and some other players to initiate the offense, but I thought Sami just did an outstanding job coming in off the bench tonight.”
We know Whitcomb can shoot, but she showed she can be more than that. She wasn’t afraid to put the ball on the ground when she had to and showed she could get to the rim. For what the Storm need from a player in that role, this will work just fine.
Stewart versus Bonner matchup is intriguing
There aren’t many matchups where Breanna Stewart can get a shot off whenever she wants. Stewart finished with 22 points, five rebounds, and three assists on 8-for-16 shooting. However, it was always interesting when the Sun’s DeWanna Bonner switched on to her.
Seeing a player like Bonner with a 6’6 wingspan to mitigate some of the advantages of Stewart’s 7’1 wingspan was almost surprising because it doesn’t happen very often. Stewart has a high release point on her shot and a player like Bonner is one of the few that can come closest to contesting it.