By Matthew Roberson
The Seattle Storm closed out the first half of its season by hosting the Chicago Sky. After finding itself trailing by 20 points in the early moments of the second quarter, the Sky netted 83 points in the final three quarters on the way to leaving Seattle with a 94-83 victory.
The Storm (9-11) made 50 percent of its field goals (28-for-56), but couldn’t get enough stops to secure the win. Breanna Stewart had her seventh double-double of 2017, scoring 25 and grabbing 11 rebounds. Jewell Loyd had 16 points and swished 7-for-14 shots. Sue Bird finished one assist shy of a double-double (10 points and nine assists), and her teammate Crystal Langhorne had 16 and eight at the end of the day. Seattle turned the ball over 18 times, leading to 23 Chicago points. The Sky gave the ball away a mere nine times.
Seattle blitzed Chicago (7-13) out of the opening gates, taking an 11-4 lead by shooting 4-for-5 on field goals in the early going. A Stewart midrange jumper extended her team’s lead to 15-7, forcing Chicago to burn a timeout at the 5:17 mark. Loyd got off to a blistering start, going 4-for-5 in the first seven minutes. Langhorne converted her 20th straight field goal attempt to make the score 24-9 with the clock showing 2:51. The Storm went 12-for-14 (85.7 percent) to begin the game and open a lead as big as 18 in the first quarter. Loyd banked home a fast break layup off a no-look dime from Bird to bring the count to 29-11. All five of Seattle’s starters scored in the first quarter. Chicago managed to shoot just 5-for-17 (29.4 percent) in the initial ten minutes, while sinking 20 percent (1-for-5) of its threes. Seattle canned 3-for-4 deep shots (75 percent) in the first frame.
The Storm lead touched 20 for the first time on an Alysha Clark layup, made possible by a Sami Whitcomb bounce pass as she knifed through the lane. Midway through the second quarter, the Storm owned a 36-23 advantage. Tamera Young cleaned up an offensive rebound and put it home to cut Chicago’s deficit to single digits (36-27) with 3:50 left in the half. Keisha Hampton found the bottom of the net on a corner three to trim the Storm lead to 36-32. Hampton scored again on the next possession to get Chicago within two. Stewart buried two free throws to stop Chicago’s 11-0 run at 1:55, and she led all scorers with 13 points at halftime.
Tamera Young splashed a jumper as the first half clock expired to make the score 42-41 Storm at the break. One quarter after shooting 85.7 percent from the field, the Storm went 4-for-13 (30.7 percent) in the second. Chicago outscored Seattle 30-13 in the second quarter. Hampton, who came off the bench to play just under nine minutes, was the Sky’s leading first half scorer with nine points.
Bird finished the first half with nine points (3-for-3) and five assists. Loyd had 11 points, all of which came in the first 10 minutes of play. Seattle got just one point (a Carolyn Swords free throw) from its reserves in the first half. Chicago’s bench, led by Hampton, poured in 18. Langhorne and Stewart tied with a game-high six boards each in the first half.
Chicago shot 60 percent (12-for-20) in the second quarter, helping fuel the comeback. The Sky also hit three treys in the second, while Seattle made none. All nine players who stepped on the court for Chicago in the first two quarters scored at least two points. Turnovers allowed Chicago to climb back into the game, as Seattle coughed it up eight times in the first half. The Sky practiced sound ball security, turning the ball over just four times through the first 20 minutes.
The Sky claimed its first lead (43-42) of the game on a running floater from Young less than two minutes into the third quarter. Allie Quigley checked in with her 14th point of the game on a three pointer, allowing Chicago to stake a three-point lead (51-48) at the third quarter’s six-minute juncture. At a stoppage with 4:38 in the third, Seattle had two players (Stewart and Langhorne) with 10 points and eight rebounds. Whitcomb connected on a three to put Seattle back in the driver’s seat (54-53) as the clock ticked under the 3:30 point. After zero lead changes in the first half, the lead changed hands nine times in the third quarter alone.
At the end of three, the Sky clung to a 62-59 edge. Stewart racked up 17 points, thanks in part to a perfect 10-for-10 clip from the free throw line. Quigley paced all players with her 19 points as the teams readied for the final quarter.
Chicago’s lead stretched as large as seven points (66-59) in the onset of the fourth quarter. Bird reached the 10-point plateau for the fourth straight game by drilling a three with 7:42 on the board. Entering crunch time, with five minutes left in the game, the Sky had its biggest lead of the game to that point (74-66). Langhorne and Bird perfectly executed a pick-and-roll that resulted in an and-one, bringing the score to 76-70 with 4:20 in regulation. After trailing by 20 in the first half, Chicago got out to a game-high 11-point (85-74) lead on a Kahleah Copper bucket with just under three minutes of action left. Seattle was unable to get much closer, falling by a final score of 94-83.
The Storm had four players attain double-digit scoring marks (Stewart, Loyd, Langhorne, and Bird). Chicago got 25 from Quigley, and 14 and 10, respectively, from bench players Hampton and Cheyenne Parker. Chicago finished the game on an 83-54 run to rebound from an 18-point hole at the end of the first quarter.
Seattle enters the All-Star break with a 3-3 record in its last six games. As of Tuesday night, the team is ninth in the WNBA standings, with the top eight qualifying for the playoffs at season’s end. The Storm’s first game of the second half will be held on July 25 when it travels to Los Angeles, with the tipoff set for 7:30 p.m. PDT.