By Seth Dahle
Jewell Loyd scored a game-high 26 points, including her 1,000th for her career in the second half, as the Seattle Storm used a big push in the third quarter to defeat Washington, 81-71, on Sunday evening at KeyArena.
Loyd netted at least 25 points and hit at least 10 field goals for the third-straight contest, as she went 10-for-14, including 3-for-3 from downtown.
Head coach Jenny Boucek said Loyd’s consistency has been a noticeable difference in her game.
“She has always been capable of exploding,” said Boucek. “The biggest difference is you’re seeing consistency in her play. She’s consistent right now, and we’re hoping that means she’s turned a corner. She’s playing at a really good pace right now with really good understanding.”
The Storm (2-1) improved to 14-4 at home against the Mystics, including an 11-1 mark since 2006. After falling behind by one midway through the third quarter, Loyd and Seattle took off, as the Storm scored 31 of the next 42 points to put the Mystics away.
Crystal Langhorne added 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, while Loyd, Breanna Stewart, and Alysha Clark each grabbed five boards apiece. In her 2017 debut, Sue Bird just missed a double-double with nine points and 10 assists, as she picked up right where she left off last season when she earned All-WNBA First-Team honors.
Seattle hit its first three shots from the floor to take an 8-3 lead, as Loyd knocked down back-to-back treys before Bird netted her first bucket of the 2017 season. Anchored by eight early points from Elena Delle Donne, Washington clawed its way back to get within two (17-15) before Seattle responded with a 7-0 run to go up eight (25-17). Loyd was simply unstoppable in the opening quarter, going a perfect 5-for-5 for 13 points to lead the Storm to a 29-23 advantage going into the second frame. Seattle’s 29 first-quarter points was a season high for a quarter, as the Storm went 11-for-15 from the field for a 73.3 percent clip.
The Mystics (1-2) held the Storm to only two field goals in the opening six minutes of the second and charged to a 35-33 advantage before Langhorne capped a three-point play to spark a 9-2 burst, as Bird dropped a dime to Langhorne and then knocked down a triple to make it a 42-37 game. In the final moments of the second stanza, Bird tossed an alley-oop to Loyd to notch her sixth assist of the half, and Seattle led at the break, 44-41.
Langhorne scored Seattle’s first four points of the third, as Seattle overcame a slow start to the second half to eventually take control. The Storm closed the period with a 13-0 run, as Loyd led the way with six points during the spurt, including her 1,000th for her career via a step-back jumper with 31.9 seconds left.
“We got stops,” said Boucek on Seattle’s big third quarter. “They only had 30 points in the second half, and that’s what fuels our offense. In the third quarter, we got some defensive rhythm, which leads to offensive rhythm.“
The Storm held the Mystics to only two field goals during the first five minutes of the fourth, and Loyd swooshed a baseline jumper to make it a 74-56 contest with 6:10 left. Stewart dropped a dime to Langhorne and then scored on the run to swell the lead to 19 (79-60), and the Mystics closed the affair with an 11-2 run before the Storm came away with a 10-point win.
After the game, Loyd said she hasn’t felt this dominant about her play since high school.
“I feel good right now,” said Loyd. “My teammates do a great job of screening, talking to me on the floor and encouraging me. They make me look a lot better than I am.”
Delle Donne led Washington with 14 points and three rebounds, while Tayler Hill added 13 points on 4-for-9 shooting.
Seattle continues its five-game home stand on Friday when it hosts the New York Liberty at 7 p.m. PDT. Fans can secure the best seats in the house with Storm 360 Memberships, available now, starting at $180, available online or by calling (206) 217-WNBA (9622). Packages and group discounts are available at 206-217-WNBA (9622).