By Matthew Roberson
Hoping to carry the momentum from Saturday’s win into today, the Seattle Storm (9-10) is closing out the season’s first half with a home game against the Chicago Sky (6-13) on July 18. Tip off will take place at 6 p.m. PDT at KeyArena on ESPN2.
A win for Seattle would bring its record to 3-2 on this five-game homestand. Most recently, the Storm discarded the Atlanta Dream by a score of 90-84. Breanna Stewart picked apart the Dream’s defense on her way to 24 points, nine rebounds and season-best six assists. Crystal Langhorne notched her first 20-point game of the season while shooting 9-for-9 from the field. Langhorne has made her last 18 shots, dating back three games. She is hitting 67.3 percent of her field goals, which is the top percentage in the league.
Sue Bird carved Atlanta for 12 points and seven assists. Entering play on Tuesday, she has 2,526 assists over her 16-year career. Bird needs just 74 more to replace Ticha Penicheiro atop the leaderboard and become the WNBA’s all-time leader in assists.
Jewell Loyd helped Seattle crack 90 points for just the second time this season by scoring 10 points. Loyd also set a new career-high by nabbing four steals. Alysha Clark chipped in with 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting. The Storm had all five starters reach double-digit points in Saturday’s victory against the Dream.
Seattle has been one of the best offensive teams in the WNBA this year. The team is firmly entrenched in the top five leaguewide in points per game, assists per game, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and three-point percentage. The Storm’s 53.1 percent effective field goal percentage is tops in the league, and the team gets a higher percentage of its total points from three’s (25.8) than any team in the WNBA.
One of the Storm’s downfalls this season had been its struggles to win close games. Head coach Jenny Boucek hopes the Atlanta game – in which her team outscored the Dream 27-15 in the fourth quarter – can be a building block for the second half.
“We’ve had a lot of close games,” Boucek said. “Learning how to close out games is a skill, and it’s a team skill, and you have to learn it every year. The good news is we’ve been in a lot of close games. This is just a step. It’s one game. It’s one game that we did a better job with. We hope to build on that.”
AT A GLANCE: SKY
Chicago flies into Seattle with an even 4-4 record in its last eight games. The team rattled off a three-game winning streak to start the month of July, but before that it had lost the last three games of June. The Sky has played .600 basketball since starting the season 3-11.
The Sky has three players that can light it up from three-point range. Chicago boasts three sharpshooters (Allie Quigley, Stefanie Dolson, Tamera Young) that make at least 40 percent of their bombs from beyond the arc. Quigley and her 16.4 points per game make her the Sky’s leading scorer. Those scoring numbers make Quigley one of 11 players getting at least 16 points per contest. She is one of two players in that group (along with Nneka Ogwumike) that connect on 40 percent of their threes.
Seattle does not seem to present a good matchup for Chicago on paper. The Sky allows a second-worst 85.3 points per game and lets opponents take a league-high 18.2 free throws every time they hit the floor while holding the fourth-worst defensive rating (104.3) of any WNBA squad. Ball movement and shooting are two of Chicago’s strengths. The Sky average the second most assists per game (20.2), slot fifth in three-point percentage (35.0), as well as fifth in field goal percentage (44.9).
The Storm has overpowered the Sky in the 23 previous matchups between the two teams. Seattle has a 13-10 record against Chicago dating back to the first clash in 2006. In games played at KeyArena, the Storms hold an 8-4 advantage.
In 2016, Seattle struggled to contain the Sky. Chicago took two of the three decisions, winning once by three points and once by four points. Oddly, Seattle scored exactly 88 points in all three games with the Sky last season.
This will be the first time in 2017 that the Storm and the Sky have battled. After Tuesday’s game, the Storm will have played every team in the league. The second Seattle-Chicago duel of the year is slated for Sunday, Aug. 20 at Allstate Arena. Seattle will also finish its regular-season schedule with a game at Chicago on Sept. 3.
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