Storm dominate from start to finish to take series lead over Mystics

Jordin Canada, Kristi Toliver, Natasha Howard, Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart battle for a rebound. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
Jordin Canada, Kristi Toliver, Natasha Howard, Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart battle for a rebound. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

Seattle – You could be forgiven for waiting until the final horn to celebrate as a Seattle Storm fan at Game 1 of the WNBA Finals Friday night.

In the semifinals, no lead felt safe, and with good reason: Phoenix erased deficits of 16, 18, and 16 (again) over the course of the series, pushing the Storm to the brink of elimination.

But if there was any trepidation as Seattle pushed its lead over Washington from 11 after one quarter, to 16 at the break, to as many as 27 in the third, it wasn’t felt by the players.

“We kind of had a situation tonight where we had possession after possession where we didn’t get stops, and we weren’t scoring, and we called a timeout, and like, we’re not
doing this again,” said Jewell Loyd, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “We kind of looked at each other like, we learned from last series, and we’re not going to start Game 1 doing this.”

Jewell Loyd looks for a opening to pass the ball. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
Jewell Loyd looks for a opening to pass the ball. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

In the end, the margin of Seattle’s 89-76 victory in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals didn’t quite capture the matchup’s one-sided nature.

“Basically we got our butts kicked in every phase of the game,” said Washington head coach Mike Thibault. ” … We were a step behind. They were quicker than us, made us pay for every defensive mistake for a stretch, and we made enough of them to help them.”

Seattle outscored the Mystics 18-0 in fast break points and 50-32 in the paint, as Washington had little answer for Natasha Howard and Breanna Stewart in the post; the duo combining for 41 points on the night.

Breanna Stewart looks before heading to the basket and scoring. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
Breanna Stewart looks before heading to the basket and scoring. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

“We were able to create opportunities to play in transition as well as in the half court,” Storm head coach Dan Hughes said. “It was one of those days we shot the ball well and Washington didn’t.”

Indeed, Seattle finished the night shooting just under 55 percent from the field — the second-highest mark in team postseason history — while the Mystics were held under 44 percent.

Ariel Atkins was one of the few bright spots for Washington, finishing with 23 points on 10-of-14 shooting, on a night when Elena Delle Donne was held to just 10 (and sat for the duration of the fourth quarter) and Kristi Toliver, five. But Delle Donne had no interest blaming her health after the game.

“We can talk about my knee after this series,” she said. “Excuses are for losers. If I wanted to be 100 percent, I wouldn’t have come back.”

Sue Bird with the slick no-look pass. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
Sue Bird with the slick no-look pass. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

Game 2 is Sunday at 12:30 p.m. PT at KeyArena, before the series heads to Virginia (EagleBank Arena on the campus of George Mason University). Despite their struggles on Friday, Stewart knows well what the Mystics are capable of.

“Obviously they have a lot of weapons and we’re very aware of that, and I think the way that the game turned out tonight, they’ll come out Sunday with even more of a fire under them,” Stewart said. “We need to just be ready for that … You have to be ready to take the other team’s best shot. They didn’t play their best tonight, but I’m sure that they’re going to try to play their best on Sunday.”

Dribbles:

  • Members of Seattle-based credit union BECU can claim up to four free tickets to Game 2 on Sunday, by visiting this link: http://seattlestormbasketball.com/ticketcentral/wnba-seattle-storm-finals-tickets-compliments-of-becu/
  • Attendance: 11,486
  • Faces in the Crowd: Rapper and Seattle native Macklemore was seated courtside, next to Storm President and GM Alisha Valavanis. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Police Chief Carmen Best, Sonics legend Slick Watts, NBA great Nate Robinson, San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray, longtime Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, and Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts were all on hand as well.
  • Seattle is now 4-0 at home in the postseason.
  • Seattle improved to 3-0 against the Mystics at KeyArena in 2018. The Storm knocked off Washington 81-77 on May 29, and 97-91 on July 8.