Sunday, September 18 – 4 p.m. PT
KeyArena | Seattle, WA
No matter who wins on Sunday, Chicago (18-15) will be the No. 4 seed in the playoffs and have a bye to the second round. The Storm (15-18) could also know its fate before tipoff, as a Phoenix loss to San Antonio earlier in the afternoon would clinch the No. 7 seed for Seattle. If the Mercury wins and Seattle loses, however, the Storm would drop to the No. 8 seed. Seattle will play at either Indiana or Atlanta in the first round on Wednesday, depending on whether the Fever wins its regular-season finale.
The Storm is 0-2 against Chicago this year, as the Sky won 91-88 at KeyArena on July 17 and 92-88 at home on Sept. 2. Chicago native Jewell Loyd shined in both games, dishing out a career-high 10 assists in the first meeting and nearly recording a triple-double two weeks ago, finishing with 23 points, eight assists and a career-high 10 rebounds.
In 2015, Crystal Langhorne led the Storm with 11.1 points per game as the team finished 10-24. This year, Seattle will finish the season with three players averaging 12 or more points per contest (Breanna Stewart, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird). As a team, the Storm has also increased its average scoring output from 70.4 points per game in 2015 to 80.6 this year and its field goal percentage from 43.4 to 45.8 percent. On Aug. 31, Seattle improved to 11-16, surpassing its win total from last year with seven games to spare.
Heading into the regular-season finale at KeyArena, the Storm has won five of its last six home games dating back to July 15 against Washington. That includes victories in each of the last four home contests, the latest being a 78-60 win over Los Angeles. On Aug. 26, the Storm upset the then-first place Sparks 79-72 at KeyArena in the first game back from the Olympic break.
This season, 664 of Seattle’s 2,081 shot attempts (31.9 percent) have come from behind the three-point line, which is by far the highest percentage the league has seen since the line was moved back in 2013. The Storm attempts 20.1 three-pointers per game, and ranks fifth with a 35.1 percent conversion rate.
Chicago guard Cappie Pondexter, the fifth-leading scorer in WNBA history, has stepped up since Elena Delle Donne went down with an injury and will be crucial to the Sky’s playoff run. Pondexter is shooting 50.8 percent and averaging 20.3 points in her last four games, the league’s fifth-highest average in that span. Seattle’s Jewell Loyd is averaging 17.2 points and 4.0 assists since the Olympic break, but she’ll be looking to bounce back after a 4-for-15 outing at Phoenix.
- Last week, Sky forward and reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne had surgery to repair her right thumb after she suffered an injury to it on Sept. 7 against the Mystics. The Sky announced there is no timetable for her return, and Delle Donne has missed each of the last four games heading into Sunday’s contest. Delle Donne scored 35 points and hit the game-winning jumper on July 17 at KeyArena, and she had been averaging a league-high 21.5 points per game prior to the injury. Chicago has, however, won its last three games without her.
- By defeating Los Angeles last Sunday at KeyArena, the Storm clinched a playoff spot with two games to spare. Seattle will make its first postseason appearance since 2013. Four Storm players will be making their playoff debuts, and it will mark Sue Bird’s first postseason since 2012. The veteran point guard missed all of the 2013 season while recovering from knee surgery.