By Matthew Roberson
The Seattle Storm will battle the Washington Mystics on Tuesday at 9 a.m. PDT to kickstart a road trip consisting of three games in five days.
Seattle (6-6) will take the court at the Verizon Center having lost four of its last five games, with the losses coming by an average of 4.8 points. After dropping three straight games to Eastern Conference opponents earlier in the month, Seattle righted the ship by dispelling the San Antonio Stars on June 18 by a 75-57 margin.
In its most recent performance, the Storm lost an 85-82 barnburner at home against the Phoenix Mercury. Breanna Stewart scored 21 points in the loss to Phoenix, while Crystal Langhorne kept her recent hot streak alive with 16 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Langhorne is averaging 12 points and 6.3 rebounds in her last three outings.
Sue Bird continues her ascent up the WNBA assist mountain. Seattle’s longtime point guard recorded eight assists against Phoenix, putting her at 2,488 for her career. She needs 112 more to pass Ticha Penicheiro for the No. 1 spot on the list. Bird’s backcourt teammate, Jewell Loyd, is enjoying an All-Star caliber season. The third-year guard is the only player in the league averaging 18 points and three assists per game. She also converts on 91 percent of her free throw attempts.
Storm head coach Jenny Boucek said after the loss to Phoenix that she is looking for her team to play with more fire in the opening stages of games.
“We’re trying to figure out where that urgency is to start games,” Boucek said. “We’re definitely evaluating our slow starts and just how teams are coming at us early in games and putting us on our back foot early.”
Losing to the Mercury dropped the Storm’s winning percentage to .500 for the third time this season. The team’s record has not dipped below .500 since it began the season 0-1. Seattle carries a 1-3 road record into the meeting with the Mystics.
AT A GLANCE: MYSTICS
Washington is an even 3-3 in its last six games and currently holds an 8-5 overall record. The Mystics are ranked third in the sixth Associated Press (AP) Power Poll, just behind Minnesota and defending champion Los Angeles.
Elena Della Donne carries most of the offensive load for Washington, tallying 19.3 points per game and hitting 96.1 percent of her foul shots, the highest percentage of any player taking at least four per game. Tayler Hill (16.4), and Kristi Toliver (10.4) join Della Donne as the only other Mystic players posting double-digit points per game. Krystal Thomas collects a team-high 7.1 rebounds per contest in just over 20 minutes of playing time. Thomas boasts a 15.6 percent offensive rebound percentage, good for third in the WNBA among players who play 20 minutes a night.
Washington scores 84.1 points per game, placing the team fifth in the league. Head coach Mike Thibault’s team leads the WNBA in free throw percentage (87.5). The Mystics also take more three-point shots per game (21.5) than any team in the league.
The Storm has a 20-13 all-time record against Washington, including an 81-71 win at KeyArena on May 21 of this year. Seattle is just 6-9 all-time in games played in Washington, D.C.
In 2016, Seattle went 2-1 vs. Washington. The Storm’s 80-51 trouncing of the Mystics last season was the team’s highest margin of victory ever against Washington. The 51 points allowed by Seattle’s defense is tied for the fifth lowest in franchise history.
In the previous meeting between these teams this season, Loyd led all scorers with 26 points. Bird, who was making her season debut, facilitated her way to 10 assists. It was the 33rd time in her career that Bird had dropped 10 dimes in a game. A win for Seattle on Tuesday would bring its 2017 record against Eastern Conference opponents to 5-3.
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