The WNBA Seattle Storm stayed with their game plan to earn a win over the Atlanta Dream 90-84 on July 15th at KeyArena in Seattle.
It was the Storm’s (9-10) 13th game where the difference in the final score was 10 points or less. With this win Seattle’s record in those games is 5-8.
“We’ve had a lot of close games so at some point I think you hope that the practice pays off,” said Storm head coach Jenny Boucek. “You know, learning how to close out games is a skill and it’s a team skill and you have to learn it every year every year it’s new again. So it’s taken us longer than we would have liked.”
Boucek went on to talk about how as a team they need to continue on this path but to realize it is one game and they need to keep emotions in check and move forward with the knowledge gained.
“The good news is we’ve been in a lot of close games…,” said Boucek. “The bad news is it’s taken us awhile to figure out how to close them and this is just a step…its one game that we did a better job with but we hope to build on that.”
The Storm is definitely building on ways to get the win and part of that is management of the players available and their potential impact.
With Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis back from injury Coach Boucek now has another bit of arsenal to add to a team already brimming with offensive power.
“Sami (Whitcomb) and Kaleena give us two different looks at the wing and I like it,” said Boucek. “Different match ups, different games they’re going to play different. Just like Noe and Lex are going to play different games based on match ups and so they all need to stay ready because it gives us a lot of different looks. You see our starters minutes were way down today I thought that was one of the contributing factors of closing out the game.”
Seattle rookie guard Alexis Peterson saw her highest amount of minutes this game with a little over 11. Despite not recording a basket her presence was felt on the defense with her pulling in four rebounds.
“You earn playing time in practice. You earn trust in practice,” said Boucek. “(Alexis) has been working really hard on the scout team challenging our starters every day and she’s earned trust so she got an opportunity. I thought she did a good job. There’s a lot of teaching that she will get from this game. But I really like the energy that she brings onto the floor and the way that she can break down defenses.”
The minutes may have been a little lower for the starters but they still had an incredible offensive output for another game over 80 points. So far this season Seattle has scored over 80 in 13 of their 19 games played in the regular season going 5-for-8 in those contests.
All the starters scored in double figures. Forward Breanna Stewart put in 24 with nine rebounds and six assists. Forward Alysha Clark scored 13, guard Jewell Loyd added 10 with four steals and All-Star guard Sue Bird had 12 points with seven assists leaving her with 74 to go to become the league’s all-time assist leader.
Center Crystal Langhorne scored 20 points, her first 20 point game of 2017, with eight rebounds. Langhorne went 9-for-9 making it her second straight game without a miss. Against the Connecticut Sun she went 5-for-5 and including her make in the game before and free throws she has gone 18-for-18 without a miss.
She currently sits second all-time on the WNBA’s field goal percentage chart with 56.9. Only the Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles is ahead of her with 58.6.
Langhorne’s consistent play isn’t lost on her team or her coach.
“Lang came to our franchise through a trade as a go to player and had been a go to player her whole life,” said Boucek. “Over the years, she has now accepted more of a role on this team. We don’t call a lot of plays for Lang so different from what she’s grown up with and for her to have the character to accept that it just warms my heart that she’s getting some reward now from humbling herself and playing whatever role we need her to play and now it’s coming back around to her and I think that’s just beautiful and it says a lot about Lang and her character.”
Atlanta (8-10) saw output from their starters with 2017 All-Star forward Tiffany Hayes scoring 19 followed by guard Brittney Sykes with 16, guard Layshia Clarendon with 14 including her 1,000 career point, center Elizabeth Williams with 13 and off the bench Damiris Dantas added 12.
The Storm bookend their game outscoring the Dream in the first (27-23) and fourth (25-17) quarters as each team used runs to try to gain the win before Seattle shut the door on Atlanta.
Seattle shot for 51.5 percent to the Dream’s 43.8 with the teams even with points in the paint as they both added 44.
“You play these games and there’s some ups, there some downs,” said Bird. “Every team’s going to make a run at some point and sometimes it just comes down to who can withstand it. Who can be the last team to make a run, who can make the plays…I think the difference was today we just made those plays down the stretch…Every now and then we’ll have breakdowns but when our defense and our rebounding is up there alongside of our offense that’s when we’re good and when we can win games.”
Seattle will seek to continue their growth and to reach the .500 mark before the All-Star break when they face off against the Chicago Sky at 6pm on Tuesday, July 18th at the KeyArena in Seattle.
The Storm will be holding a pre-game rally at 5:15pm before the July 18th game in support of Planned Parenthood. Five dollars from every ticket sold will be given to Planned Parenthood as Seattle becomes the first pro team to take this type of stance.