Wednesday, September 21 – 5 p.m. PT
McCamish Pavilion | Atlanta, GA
The No. 7 seed and playing its first postseason game since 2013, the Storm (16-18) won five of its final six regular-season games to finish 7-3 after the Olympic break. The Dream (17-17) was just 4-5 after the break, falling from the fourth spot to the No. 6 seed. Atlanta is back in the playoffs after missing them last year, just the second time the Dream failed to qualify since entering the league in 2008.
Seattle went 2-1 against the Dream in the regular season, including a 91-82 victory at Atlanta on Sept. 4 in which the Storm led by as many as 26. In the only loss to Atlanta, the Storm was ahead going into the fourth quarter before the Dream dominated the final 10 minutes to win 77-64. Seattle is 3-0 all-time in the playoffs against the Dream, with the only meetings coming in the 2010 WNBA Finals.
The Dream prefers to pound the ball inside, as it has now ranked first or second in points in the paint for eight straight years. On the other hand, 32 percent of Seattle’s shots in the regular season came from the three-point line, by far the league’s highest percentage since the line was moved back in 2013. The Dream ranks last in the league in three-point shooting percentage (28.7 percent) and percentage of points scored from beyond the arc (13.7 percent).
Storm rookie Breanna Stewart led the league in plus-minus this season, a stat that measures how a player’s team compares to the opponent per every 40 minutes with that player on and off the court. Her plus-23.6 rating was the second best plus-minus in the last nine years (Maya Moore’s in 2014 was slightly better at 23.9) and the third best since the WNBA started recording it (Lauren Jackson’s 27.8 in 2007 is first). Stewart grabbed 277 defensive rebounds in the regular season, breaking the all-time record that was held by Lisa Leslie. She joined Candace Parker (2008) and Tamika Catchings (2002) as the only rookies to average 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block.
Dream forward Angel McCoughtry, a two-time league scoring champion, led the WNBA in points per game after the Olympic break (23.4). McCoughtry averaged 24.0 points on 54.2 percent shooting against Seattle in the regular season, her highest marks versus any opponent this year. If Alysha Clark and her Storm teammates can prevent a scoring outburst from McCoughtry, Seattle has a good chance to win on Wednesday.
- The Dream will be without second-leading scorer Tiffany Hayes, who is suspended for one game after picking up her seventh technical foul of the year in the regular-season finale. Hayes averaged 15 points per game this year – a career high – and scored 20 in the last meeting with Seattle. Atlanta could also be without veteran forward Sancho Lyttle, who didn’t play in the final five regular-season games due to a foot injury. This year, Lyttle had the best defensive plus-minus in the league for the second straight season and scored 22 points in the Dream’s victory over Seattle.
- In the new playoff format, the best eight teams qualify and are seeded regardless of conference. The top two clubs (Minnesota and L.A.) receive byes all the way to the semifinals, while the No. 3 (New York) and No. 4 seeds (Chicago) have byes to the second round. The first and second rounds are single elimination, and the semifinals and WNBA Finals feature best-of-five series. Phoenix (No. 8) and Indiana (No. 5) are playing in the other first-round game on Wednesday. Teams will be re-seeded after each round.