By Matthew Roberson
The Seattle Storm set a franchise record for the most points (33) scored in the second quarter and outscored Connecticut by 14 in that stretch, but after a back-and-forth 40 minutes of play, the Sun came out on top by a score of 83-79.
Breanna Stewart had a typical offensive performance for her, notching 22 points on 10-for-17 shooting to go along with a team-high eight rebounds. Jewell Loyd had 17 points of her own and contributed with six assists. Sue Bird played her way to 15 points and seven dimes, and her teammate Crystal Langhorne made every one of her field goal attempts (5-for-5) to finish with 12 points. Seattle shot 32-for-63 from the field (50.8 percent), but struggled a bit from three, making 6-for-20 from deep.
Seattle (8-10) turned the ball over on six of its first seven possessions, allowing Connecticut (10-7) to start with a 9-3 lead. The run for the Sun eventually reached 13-5 on a Jasmine Thomas jump shot with 4:39 on the first quarter clock. Connecticut’s lead grew to 20-9 under the two-minute mark as Jonquel Jones sank two free throws. Langhorne later scored four straight points for Seattle, but Lynetta Kizer hit a three for Connecticut to bring its lead to 25-15 to end the first quarter. J. Jones anchored Connecticut, finishing the first quarter with nine points and four rebounds, all of which came on the offensive end. Meanwhile, Langhorne led Seattle with six points on 3-for-3 shooting.
Shekinna Stricklen buried a pull-up three to stretch her team’s lead to 12 points (30-18), the biggest gap of the game. Stewart responded with a three of her own on Seattle’s side of the court. This gave her five straight games with a make from behind the arc. By the 5:56 juncture of the second quarter, the Storm climbed to within five points (32-27) thanks to three straight buckets from Stewart and a layup from Carolyn Swords. Seattle enjoyed a 19-6 run in the second quarter to take its first lead of the game (37-36) with 3:34 to go in the half. The Storm made five of its first 10 shots from downtown and got 18 of its first 37 points in the paint. Seattle’s lead would reach as much as six points in the first half (44-38), while Connecticut turned the ball over four times in the quarter.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis checked in with 2:14 remaining in the first half. She had not played since injuring her right knee on May 26 vs. New York. Mosqueda-Lewis netted her first points in nearly two months when she drained two free throws near the end of the second quarter. The score at halftime read 48-44 in favor of the Storm, with Seattle scoring 33 points in the second quarter, setting a new season-high for points in a quarter.
Stewart had 16 points at the halftime buzzer, making 7-for-9 shots and swallowing six rebounds. One game after getting zero points from its bench, Seattle’s reserves posted seven points in the first half. The Storm shot 19-for-30 (63.3 percent) before the break, helping it set a new season-high for points in the first half and first-half field goal percentage.
Jones was the high scorer for Connecticut in the first half with 11 points, while Stricklen, J. Thomas and Alyssa Thomas all had nine points in the first 20 minutes of action. Seattle recorded assists on 15 (78.9 percent) of its 19 made buckets. Connecticut shot 15-for-33 from the field (45.5 percent) prior to halftime. The Sun was boosted by 10 free throws and 11 second-chance points in the first half. After turning the ball over six times in the first quarter, Seattle coughed it up just once in the second. The Storm shot 12-for-15 (80 percent) on second quarter field goals to propel the team into the lead.
Connecticut regained the lead when Stricklen nailed a three to put the team ahead 58-56 just past the halfway mark of the third quarter. The score would even up at 60 with 2:51 on the clock when Bird knocked in two free throws. At the end of three, the Sun held a slim 65-63 advantage.
Jones hit a three to put Connecticut up 72-65 with 8:15 still to play. Swords finished a pick-and-roll off an assist from Bird to give her a new season-high of six points as the clock ticked under seven minutes. On the next possession, Bird checked in with her 15th point on a jump shot at the 6:14 mark, bringing Seattle within three (74-71).
A lefty layup from Stewart put her at 22 points and cut Connecticut’s lead to a margin of one (78-77) at the fourth quarter’s 3:19 moment. Neither team would score until the 1:08 juncture, when Stricklen converted her career-best seventh three of the afternoon to put the Sun up 81-77. Loyd grabbed a rebound and wiggled the ball into the hoop with just 31.2 showing on the scoreboard, bringing Seattle back within two points (81-79).
After getting a defensive stop that ended with Swords’ fifth rebound, Seattle called a timeout and readied itself for a possible game-tying possession. Stewart was whistled for an offensive foul, and the Storm fouled Williams with 9.4 seconds left. She made both foul shots to secure a four-point (83-79) lead, and that would stand as the final score.
The Storm had four players eclipse 15 points (Stewart, Loyd, Bird, Langhorne). Stricklen ended with 21, with all of her points coming on three pointers. Every member of Connecticut’s starting five posted double-digit scoring numbers.
Seattle’s five-game homestand rolls on with a game against the Atlanta Dream on Saturday, with tipoff set for 6 p.m. PDT at KeyArena. 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).