By Matthew Roberson
The Seattle Storm (14-18) embarks on a two-game Eastern Conference road trip to end its 2017 regular season. The first game of the pair is on Friday, Sept. 1 at Capital One Arena against the Washington Mystics (17-15).
Seattle has dropped its last two decisions, putting its playoff status in a precarious position. In its last home game of the season, Seattle fell at the hands of the Phoenix Mercury. This marked the second loss in a row for a Seattle team that had rattled off four straight wins in mid-August. While winning on the road in D.C. will be no easy task, the Storm can make strides toward securing a playoff spot if it can pull off the victory. A win on Friday night would give Seattle a 2-1 record over the Mystics this season. With Washington currently possessing the fifth spot in the playoff race, it is very possible that we could be in for a Washington-Seattle matchup in the first round of the postseason. Washington has managed just three wins in the month of August, with two of them coming against the struggling Indiana Fever. Washington, who enters the game with the third-lowest field goal percentage in the league, has failed to crack 80 points in any of its last three outings.
The two games earlier this season against Washington have produced very different results. On May 21, in just the third game of the season for Seattle, the KeyArena crowd was treated to an 81-71 Storm win. Jewell Loyd went off for 26 points that evening, making good on all three of her three-point attempts. Crystal Langhorne tallied 17 points against her former team on 6-for-9 shooting. Sue Bird, playing in her first game of the season, distributed a season-high 10 assists. Bird needs to serve just three more assists to become the WNBA’s all-time leader in the category. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis could be an x-factor in the nation’s capital. She had eight points, an 11 +/- rating, and a perfect 3-for-3 shooting night in the May 21 win.
Save for one game in Atlanta, the Storm’s defense has held opponents under 80 points during the last three weeks of games. Since the All-Star break, Seattle is one of just five teams in the league with a positive net rating. Over the last four games, a stretch in which the team has gone 2-2, the Storm is averaging 84 points per game. When looking at every team’s stats from its last four games, only the Minnesota Lynx (113.1) have a better offensive rating than Seattle’s (107.7).
AT A GLANCE: MYSTICS
Although the team has already clinched a playoff spot, the Mystics are far from playing their best basketball. Washington has lost each of its last three games, and five of its last six. Friday’s game is the last home game of the regular season for Washington. In 16 games at Capital One Arena this season, the home team has compiled a 10-6 record. After squaring up with the Storm, the Mystics will fly to Minnesota to close its regular season against the Lynx.
During its three-game skid, the Mystics have averaged 73.3 points per game. For perspective, in the Storm’s last three games – which has featured two losses – the team is scoring 85.7 points per game. Mystic shooters might feel as though there has been a lid on the basket over the course of the last three outings. In their trio of losses, the Mystics are making just 39 percent of their field goals, the lowest mark in the league when the sample size is limited to each team’s three most recent performances.
Injuries have largely defined Washington’s season. Tayler Hill, one of the team’s starting guards, tore her ACL in July. At the time of the injury Hill was scoring 13.3 points a night and hitting 93.8 percent of her foul shots. Elena Delle Donne was sidelined earlier in the year with an injury as well. The superstar forward dealt with an ankle problem that kept her on the shelf for a while. She has appeared in 23 of Washington’s 32 games in 2017, scoring 19.3 points per game to go along with 7.0 rebounds and a 48.1 field goal percentage.
The Storm has a 20-14 all-time record in 34 games against the Mystics. These longtime WNBA staples have met at least once a year since 2000. While the Storm has a stranglehold on games played against Washington at KeyArena (14-4), the team has gone just 6-10 in games played in the DMV.
The last time these teams shared the floor, Washington dominated en route to a 100-70 win in D.C. Playing at noon eastern time, or 9 a.m. back in Seattle, the Storm turned in a putrid offensive performance. Seattle shot just 4-for-21 (19 percent) on three pointers and turned the ball over 23 times. Ramu Tokashiki was the rare exception to the offensive woes of that afternoon. She had 11 points on the day, the second time in 2017 that she’s entered a double-digit number in the scoring column.
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