By Matthew Roberson
The Seattle Storm (14-16) hit the Midwest for a Sunday game that will certainly hold playoff implications. Seattle routed the Chicago Sky (11-18), a team that is flirting with the playoffs’ eighth seed, by a 103-66 margin. Illinois native Jewell Loyd put on a show for her hometown crowd, finishing with 17 points and four rebounds. Breanna Stewart finished a rebound shy of her ninth double-double of the season, and Sue Bird inched closer to the league’s all-time assist record with her eight dimes. She needs a dozen more to earn the right of leading assister in WNBA history.
Offensively and defensively, the Storm imposed its will all night. Each member of the starting lineup had at least eight points, and every player on the Storm’s roster made at least one field goal. Alysha Clark played one of her best games of 2017, putting up 17 points and going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. Bird dropped eight points and eight assists with zero turnovers, while Crystal Langhorne added her typical 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting numbers. The Sky made just 40.3 percent of its shots, and went 3-for-16 (18.8 percent) on three balls.
Seattle stormed out of the gates on a 13-4 run, holding Chicago to 2-for-9 on field goals in the opening minutes. Bird blitzed through the lane for a layup to extend the lead to double digits for the first time at 5:36, with the Storm in front 15-4. Loyd cashed in a jumper on the next possession, and after the Sky’s sixth turnover of the night the Storm huddled on the sideline up 17-4, having every player in the starting five score already. When Loyd drilled a three in front of the Storm bench with 3:30 left in the frame, she gave her team a commanding 25-6 advantage.
At the quarter’s conclusion, Seattle held a 29-15 lead. In the team’s July 18 matchup, the Storm had an almost identical 29-11 lead. Loyd had 10 points in the first 10 minutes, and the Storm defense held Chicago to 7-for-20 from the field. The Sky also struggled from deep, shooting 0-for-5 on three’s while recording just three assists and seven turnovers.
With 8:40 on the second quarter scoreboard, Ramu Tokashiki finished at the rim off a Sami Whitcomb fast break assist. This was followed on the next possession by a Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis jump shot and layup from Carolyn Swords on the possession after that. These early minutes of the quarter not only got the bench players going, but also created a 35-17 gap. Loyd reached 15 points in the first half by nailing a corner three, which also gave Seattle its 40th point of the affair. A three pointer from the right hand of Clark brought the count to 45-28 with just under four minutes remaining in the half. A slew of buckets to end the half gave Seattle a 57-36 halftime lead.
Loyd dazzled in the initial quarters, hitting seven field goals for 17 points. Her and Stewart each posted 22 +/- ratings for the first half, as Stewart checked in with nine points and seven rebounds at the break. Clark had 10 points in 10:13 of playing time in the first two stanzas. Crisp ball movement allowed for many easy baskets in the Storm’s first half. The team shot 22-for-41 (53.7 percent) and registered assists on 18 of those makes. The Storm also gave the ball away just four times and committed five fouls, compared to Chicago’s 10 turnovers and 11 fouls. Bird had already dished five assists by the time halftime rolled around. This matched Courtney Vandersloot for most first half dimes. Allie Quigley paced the Sky with nine points.
Bird got a friendly roll on a three on the Storm’s first possession of the third quarter, putting the team on top 60-38. Seattle looked up with 6:50 on the third quarter clock and saw the score read 64-40, representing its biggest lead of the game to that point. The lead crept up to 27 points (69-42) when Clark dead-eyed a three midway through the third period. With minutes to spare in the third quarter, Seattle was sitting on a 33-point lead (79-46). Gary Kloppenburg’s team pick-and-rolled Chicago to death and made 34-for-60 shots (56.7 percent) in the first three quarters. Playing on the road less than 48 hours after winning in Seattle, the Storm led 84-48 after three quarters.
Eighty-four points was more than the team’s per game scoring average entering Sunday (81.5). The defense was on par with the offense, limiting Chicago to a measly 12 points in the third. Noelle Quinn buried a three on Seattle’s first touch of the fourth quarter, giving the Storm 10 players in the scoring column. Whitcomb spun a three through the net later to give Seattle 90 points and 11 made threes on 20 attempts (55 percent). Kloppenburg rested his starters for the entire fourth quarter, as the team breezed to a 37-point demolition. Whitcomb drove the lane and stuck the layup to push Seattle’s score into triple digits, the second time this season the Storm have knocked down the 100-point barrier.
In its last three games before being shut down by the Storm, Chicago was rocking a 113.7 offensive rating, by far the highest in the league. The red-hot Storm grounded the Sky’s offense, allowing 66 points and inducing 16 turnovers. The visitors took control of the glass as well, sticking 42 rebounds to Chicago’s 28.
Seattle kicked off its two-game road swing with an emphatic win. The Storm invades Atlanta on Wednesday for a game with the Dream at 7 p.m. EDT before returning to KeyArena for the home finale on Aug. 27 against Phoenix. 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).