Storm clinch seventh seed with win over shorthanded Sky

Breanna Stewart set the single-season record for defensive rebounds in the Storm's last regular-season game, with 277. Photo by Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
Breanna Stewart set the single-season record for defensive rebounds in the Storm’s last regular-season game, with 277. Photo by Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

Key Arena seats 15,354 in its full basketball configuration.

But for years, the only number that has mattered for Storm fans is 9,686, the capacity for a lower bowl sellout.

Until Sunday, that is.

For the first time since 2011, an overflow, upper bowl crowd of 12,186 was on hand at the Key to see Seattle clinch the No. 7 seed in the WNBA playoffs with a 88-75 over a shorthanded Chicago squad.

Five Storm players finished in double-figures, led by Breanna Stewart’s double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and a season-high 16 points from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Ramu Tokashiki and Sue Bird each had 14 points, while Jewell Loyd had 10. Stewart also set the WNBA single-season record with 277 defensive rebounds, besting the mark set by Lisa Leslie in 2004.

The Sky — already without star forward Elena Della Donne as she recovers from thumb surgery — rested Cappie Pondexter and Courtney Vandersloot with the team already locked into the fourth seed. Without that trio, Chicago (18-16) spread around their scoring punch with five players of their own in double-figures, led by Jessica Breland and Jamierra Faulkner’s 14.

The two teams played even for most of the first half, even at 18 after one quarter and tied at 32 with less than two minutes to go in the second before Seattle (16-18) went on a 7-2 run to take a lead into the break. Tokashiki led all scorers through 20 minutes with nine points.

Through an interpreter, she said wanted to be more aggressive with the basketball, and that she’s always told not to hesitate on offense.

After trailing for most of the third (by as many as 13), Chicago had cut the deficit to two heading into the fourth quarter, before Seattle responded with a 24-4 run over the next seven minutes to put the game away.

That stretch was punctuated by 10 points from Mosqueda-Lewis.

“My teammates just did a really good job finding me,” said the second-year forward out of UConn. “They also did a great job of attacking the basket, and whenever they saw defenders coming in, they found me in the open spots.”

Bird said the surge in the final 10 minutes was crucial.

“The fourth quarter couldn’t have been any better,” Bird said. “It was just a weird game up until that point. I don’t think either team was really that amazing, and for us it was just great to break through.”

Seattle now heads to Atlanta for a loser-out match up with Atlanta at McCamish Pavilion on the Georgia Tech campus on Wednesday at 5 p.m. PT. The winner will face either Chicago at Allstate Arena on Saturday at 11 a.m. PT, or New York at Madison Square Garden on Saturday at 4 p.m. PT.

The Storm enter the postseason as one of the league’s hottest teams, going 7-3 since the Olympic break. But after the team’s blowout loss to Phoenix on Thursday, head coach Jenny Boucek said there was a lot on the line despite the minor seeding implications.

“We had a dud in Phoenix, and we didn’t play the way we need to play,” she said. “So this game was a really good calibration game, a priming game, just getting back to the game we want to play.”

Now with Atlanta looming — a team Seattle beat in two of their three match ups this year — Boucek said the key to moving on will be preventing the Dream from establishing itself in the post.

“We have to bring a ton of energy,” she said. “They play really well in transition, they’ve got a lot of great athletes, and they put a lot of pressure on the rim. They really pound it into the paint, and they get a lot of paint points, whether it be post ups or drives, cuts, and so we’ve got to find ways to build walls and keep them out of the paint and then only give them one shot.”

“Their strength is their athleticism and their ability to play a really unpredictable style. Our strength is more doing things as a unit with collective synergy and activity.”

That game can be seen live nationally on ESPN NEWS.

Dribbles:

  • Attendance: 12,186. That’s the highest mark for a Storm home game since Sept. 11, 2011, when 13,659 were on hand for the regular season finale against Chicago.
  • Seattle emptied the bench, as all 12 players saw the floor for the Storm.
  • #TOKWATCH: The 14 points from the Japanese international was one shy of tying her season-high, as she finished 5-of-8 from the field with one rebound and one assist.
  • Noelle Quinn tied a season-high with 19 minutes on the floor.
  • Erika de Souza tied a season-high with 12 points for Chicago.
  • Sue Bird finishes the season as the WNBA’s leader in assists, averaging 5.8 per night. She also ends the regular season with a career-best 44.4 percent mark from 3-point range.
  • Despite the win, Seattle lost the season series to Chicago two games to one. Chicago beat Seattle at Key Arena 91-88 on July 17, and defeated the Storm at home 92-88 on Sept. 2.
  • Points in the Paint: Storm 22, Sky 20
  • Second Chance Points: Storm 12, Sky 6
  • Fast Break Points: Storm 16, Sky 8

LEAVE A REPLY