By Matthew Roberson
Less than a week after the venue played home to the WNBA All-Star Game, the Seattle Storm (9-12) returns to KeyArena for its first home game of the second half of the season. Seattle will do battle with the Dallas Wings (11-12) on Friday at 7 p.m. PDT.
A win for Seattle would ensure that it wins the season series with Dallas, a team it has vanquished once this year and is currently fighting with for a coveted playoff spot. Earning a win vs. Dallas would also help Seattle avoid its third three-game losing streak of 2017. The most recent game for the Storm was a 68-60 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. Breanna Stewart played arguably her best all-around game of the season in the defeat at STAPLES Center. Stewart had 23 points, five rebounds, five assists and career-high six blocks, falling four steals shy of a vaunted five-by-five game. Crystal Langhorne continued her hyper-efficient season, putting up 12 points and 10 rebounds while making 5-for-7 field goals. Langhorne is shooting 70.5 percent from the field in her last 12 games. Her 68 percent clip for the season is tops in the WNBA.
Sue Bird set two personal milestones in the SoCal showdown. Bird finished with eight points and three steals, helping her pass Lauren Jackson for most field goals made in Seattle Storm history, as well as earning her 600th career steal. The Seattle basketball icon is one of eight players in league history to pilfer 600 steals, and she is 60 assists behind Ticha Penicheiro for the most dimes in league history.
Jewell Loyd amassed 13 points against Los Angeles on Tuesday. Loyd has scored in double figures in all but three games this season. The third-year guard is nailing 34.7 percent of her threes this season, a sizable improvement from her 29.8 percent career number. Loyd has been hot from deep lately, shooting 41.1 percent in her last five games.
Seattle’s dynamic young duo has had individual success against Dallas in the past. Stewart and Loyd have played the Dallas Wings four times in their careers. Stewart averages 23.2 points and nine rebounds against the Wings, while Loyd checks in at 17 points per game vs. the Western Conference foe.
For the Storm to secure a spot in the postseason, it will need to turn in a more consistent effort on a night-to-night basis. Head coach Jenny Boucek is cognizant of this, and spoke about the need for consistency after the LA game.
“We have to be more consistent,” Boucek said. “With consistency comes good results. When we get stops, that really helps offense.”
AT A GLANCE: WINGS
The Wings soar into Seattle on the heels of a fascinating three-game stretch. Dallas knocked off the Chicago Sky 112-106 on July 16, the most points the team has scored in a home game since moving to Dallas prior to the 2016 campaign. The Wings followed that up by allowing 100 points again, dropping a 100-74 blowout to the first place Minnesota Lynx. In their most recent game, the Wings eked out an 84-82 win over the Indiana Fever at College Park Center.
Dallas is putting together a season defined by inconsistency. Head coach Fred Williams’ team has strung together a four-game winning streak as well as two three-game losing streaks already this year. The Wings have not won back-to-back games since that winning streak ended in late June. Don’t let the losing record fool you though, Dallas can hang with the WNBA’s elite. Of its 11 wins, four have come against Los Angeles, Connecticut, Washington and Phoenix, four teams currently holding down winning records and playoff spots.
There is no secret as to who the focal point of the Wings is. Skylar Diggins-Smith leads the team in minutes, points and assists per game. Her 23.9 usage rate is also the highest on the team and puts her ninth in the league. Glory Johnson does the work for Dallas on the boards, gathering a team-high 8.3 per game to go along with 13.7 points. Allisha Gray (12.6 points per game) and Karima Christmas-Kelly (10.8) are the other Wings with double-digit scoring averages.
The Storm owns a 2-2 record against the Wings since the organization moved to Dallas. Seattle has put up an average of 81 points in those four games. In games played at KeyArena, the Storm is 1-1.
In 2016, Seattle could not stop the Wings from taking flight. Dallas took two of three from Boucek’s squad, winning both games by less than 10 points. In the lone win for the Storm, Loyd had 23 points and Stewart nabbed 12 rebounds.
This will be the second time in 2017 that the Storm and Wings have squared off. Seattle clipped the Wings the first time around, winning 89-69 and holding Dallas to a 35.3 field goal percentage. Stewart recorded a season-high 30 points in that meeting, and Alysha Clark smothered a career-high nine rebounds.
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