By Matthew Roberson
ATLANTA – The Seattle Storm (14-17) took its hot streak down south for an appointment with the Atlanta Dream (11-20), a team entering play on a nine-game losing streak. Led by Layshia Clarendon and Sancho Lyttle, the Dream put an end to the streak, besting the Storm 89-83. Crystal Langhorne had a 17 and 10 outing, while Breanna Stewart led Seattle with 18 points. Sue Bird facilitated six assists, meaning she needs six more to break the record for most assists in WNBA history.
Both teams shot the ball well all night, with Seattle bucketing 33-for-65 shots (50.8 percent) and Atlanta banging 35-for-63 (55.6 percent). Every player who started for the Dream finished with at least a dozen points. Clarendon broke her own Atlanta franchise record by serving 14 assists. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis was the leading scorer off the bench for either team, netting 12 in 12:39 of action. This Wednesday night showdown was gripping all the way through. The lead changed 10 times over the course of 40 minutes.
Atlanta hit 5-for-6 of its shots to open the game, but was tied at 10 after four minutes of play. Each of Seattle’s five starters made a field goal during this stretch. A falling right-handed hook shot from Langhorne put Seattle up by three (15-12) at the 4:44 mark. This gave Langhorne 11 straight made field goals against Atlanta, after she sunk all nine of her attempts in the teams’ previous game. The Storm maintained the lead at the end of one, standing on top 24-23 at the end of the quarter. Seattle shot 55 percent from the field in the opening quarter. Atlanta made 66 percent of its shots, but turned the ball over three times to Seattle’s one.
Stewart entered the first points of the second quarter, connecting on a turnaround in the post. Alexis Peterson hit nothing but net on a three to extend Seattle’s lead to six (31-25) in the primary stages of the second quarter. Mosqueda-Lewis notched four quick points after coming off the bench, giving the Storm a 38-34 lead before a timeout at 4:45. After Brittney Sykes tied the game on a midrange jumper, Langhorne untied things with a midrange J of her own, placing Seattle ahead by a score of 40-38.
Seattle opened up an eight-point gap (48-40), its biggest of the game, before Clarendon nailed a three on Atlanta’s last possession of the half. The halftime score read 48-43. After posting one of its best offensive games of the season in Chicago, the Storm’s hot shooting carried into McCamish Pavilion. The green and gold was true on 21-for-33 (63.6 percent) first half shot attempts. The Storm distributed 15 assists to just four turnovers. Atlanta, helped by Clarendon’s eight assists, shot 18-for-30 (60 percent) before the halftime horn sounded.
Langhorne drove the Storm’s attack on Atlanta through two periods. She finished the half with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting, leading all players. Stewart’s influence was felt in many aspects; she put up nine points, five rebounds, and four assists in 18 minutes of playing time. Bird’s first half included seven points and three assists as well as two steals. Gary Kloppenburg received a nice boost from his bench, as Mosqueda-Lewis and Peterson combined for 12 points, outscoring Atlanta’s reserves by themselves. Clarendon nearly drove-and-kicked her way to a first half double-double. Entering the halftime locker room, she had 10 points and eight assists. Sancho Lyttle and Elizabeth Williams each bullied their way to 10 points as well, with both post players making 5-for-6 shots in the first two quarters.
The Dream grabbed a 50-49 lead less than two minutes into the second half, prompting a timeout from Kloppenburg. Whatever was said appeared to pay immediate dividends, as his team responded with four straight points. Midway through the third, Seattle was in a four-point hole. Mosqueda-Lewis got the visitors within one (58-57) after stroking a long two. She gave the team a lead, and her 11th point of the night, on the very next trip down the floor. The lead changed hands many times in the third quarter, which closed with a Carolyn Swords layup to knot things up at 64. Seattle managed just 16 points in the third stanza.
The home team got the first five points of the final quarter before Stewart was fouled going to the rack and sent home a pair of free throws. A bucket from Lyttle right before the 7:00 mark brought the difference to five (73-68). Bird rose for a momentous three and it landed in the net, bringing Seattle back within two (73-71). With 4:36 left in the game, the teams were exactly where they started, tied. Each team had put 75 points on the board, and made more than half of its field goals. At the 2:43 juncture, Langhorne found the hoop on a free throw to give Seattle a narrow advantage (78-77) heading down the stretch.
Down by two with the clock ticking under two minutes, Seattle went to Jewell Loyd, who was pure on a jump shot to tie the game at 80. From there, Clarendon pushed in a runner and Sykes got a hometown roll on a three to dig Seattle into an 85-80 deficit. Seattle earned just three more points after that, losing 89-83. The Storm went cold in the second half, making 37.5 percent of its chances and putting in just 35 points.
Seattle will make a quick pit stop back in the Emerald City for the home finale before jetting back east for the last two games of the regular season. The Storm hosts the Phoenix Mercury, the team directly ahead of Seattle in the standings, on Sunday, August 27 at 6 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).