By Seth Dahle
The Seattle Storm will look to extend its winning streak to three straight games on Friday when it hosts Tina Charles and the New York Liberty at 7 p.m. PDT.
The Storm is coming off a convincing 81-71 win over the Washington Mystics, as Jewell Loyd netted a game-high 26 points, including No. 1,000 for her career. After falling behind by one (49-48) in the third, Seattle used a stifling defensive effort to anchor a 25-5 run to pull away.
Head coach Jenny Boucek said the team’s defense ultimately translated to better offense in the win.
“We got stops,” said Boucek after the win. “They only had 30 points in the second half, and that’s what fuels our offense. In the third quarter we got some defensive rhythm, which leads to offensive rhythm.“
Crystal Langhorne posted her second consecutive 17-point performance, shooting 6-for-9 from the floor, including a 5-for-5 effort from the free throw line. In her 2017 debut, Sue Bird just missed a double-double, adding nine points and a game-high 10 assists.
Loyd is undoubtedly playing the best basketball of her career, averaging 26 points per game and shooting 60 percent from the floor. She’s totaled 25 points or more in each of the first three games, and Loyd is also averaging over five rebounds and nearly three assists.
Coming up big inside, Langhorne has recorded 15.7 points and five boards per game, while Stewart has remained steady with 10.5 points, two blocks and a team-best six rebounds per contest.
Seattle (2-1) is enjoying its first winning record since June 6, 2015, and a win on Friday would snap a four-game losing skid to New York at KeyArena. In the latest Associated Press (AP) Power Poll, the Storm earned a No. 3 ranking behind defending champion Los Angeles and Minnesota.
After facing New York on Friday, the Storm will cap the weekend on Sunday when it hosts Indiana at 4 p.m. PDT.
AT A GLANCE: LIBERTY
New York (2-1) defeated Phoenix, 69-67, on Tuesday at Talking Stick Resort Arena thanks to a bucket by Epiphany Prince with 4.5 seconds remaining.
Prince shot 10-for-14 from the field, including four three’s, and finished with 24 points. Meanwhile, Charles recorded 22 points and 11 rebounds for the Liberty, which is ranked fourth in the latest AP Power Poll.
Charles, the 2012 WNBA MVP and a four-time WNBA All-Star, has paced the Liberty thus far with 13.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. New York has boasted a balanced offensive attack, as three other players also average double figures in Prince (13.0 PPG), Brittany Boyd (13.0 PPG), and Sugar Rodgers (11.7 PPG).
New York is fifth in the WNBA in rebounding (35.3 RPG), but the Liberty has had trouble scoring, averaging just 71 points per game to rank third to last. The team’s defense has gotten the job done, however, as it holds opponents to a 39.7 percent clip – good enough for third in the league.
Under fifth-year head coach Bill Laimbeer, the Liberty posted its second straight 20-win season in 2016, going 21-13 and reaching the second round of the WNBA Playoffs.
New York holds a slight 17-15 edge in the all-time series history and is currently riding a four-game winning streak at KeyArena.
Seattle’s last win at home against New York came on August 26, 2012, as Bird led the way with 18 points and 10 assists. The Storm has gone 9-7 vs. the Liberty at KeyArena since its inaugural season in 2000.
In 2016, Seattle went 1-2 vs. New York, with its lone win coming on the road in a 102-78 thumping on Sept. 7. Seattle tied a franchise high with 40 field goals made, as Loyd led the way with 24 points on 9-for-14 shooting, while Langhorne went 10-for-12 to net 21 points. Seattle’s 102 points tied for second best all-time behind 111 points, which the Storm has achieved three times in its 18-year history.
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