By Matthew Roberson
The Seattle Storm (13-16), battling for a coveted playoff spot, heads to Allstate Arena for a huge game with the Chicago Sky (11-17). Tipoff is set for 3:00 p.m. PDT on Sunday.
Both teams find themselves firmly on the bubble of the WNBA’s playoff picture. The Storm’s strong play as of late has allowed the team to leapfrog Chicago for the eighth spot, while the Sky is currently on the outside looking in. The Storm is a half-game ahead of the Chicago Sky for the league’s eighth and final playoff spot. Chicago is enjoying a fruitful month of August, winning the first three games of the month before losing to the Sparks on Friday night. In the only previous Storm-Sky showdown this season, Chicago executed a massive comeback to beat Seattle 94-83. Breanna Stewart threw together a double-double in that game, ending with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Jewell Loyd brought 16 points to the table, going 7-for-14 from the field. Sue Bird dealt nine assists in the July 18 clash. Bird is a mere 20 assists behind Ticha Penicheiro for the WNBA all-time record for assists.
Seattle has several players near the top of statistical leaderboards for the 2017 campaign. Stewart is third in the league at 20.1 points per game, just a tick behind Sylvia Fowles for the second spot. Bird’s 6.5 assists is the third-highest per game average in the league; Crystal Langhorne is making 67.3 percent of her field goals, ranking first in the WNBA. The record for a single season is 66.8 percent, set by Tamika Raymond in 2003.
The Storm prides itself on being one of the best shooting teams in the WNBA. Seattle’s 47.3 field goal percentage in 2017 is second only to the defending champion Los Angeles Sparks. Shooting from beyond the arc has not presented a problem either. Seattle’s band of sharpshooters leads the league in three pointers made this season, with 204. Only Connecticut and Chicago hit threes at a higher percentage than the Storm’s 36.6.
AT A GLANCE: SKY
Chicago has completely turned its season around after starting 3-12. Things started trending upward when the team pulled off a striking upset of the Minnesota Lynx on July 8. That 100-76 conquest spring boarded a three-game winning streak and a span of five wins in six games that catapulted the Sky back into the playoff conversation. Since that ugly 3-12 start to the season, Chicago has gone 8-5, losing just twice at home.
2017 All-Stars Allie Quigley and Stefanie Dolson have been catalysts for the Sky’s resurgence. Quigley has earned a reputation as one of the league’s deadliest three-point shooters. She leads the WNBA with a 46.9 hit rate from outside, and is taking nearly six long balls per game. The former DePaul Blue Devil, who appeared in seven games for the Storm in 2011, is also tenth in the league with 17.3 points per game.
Dolson is enjoying the best season of her four-year career. Chicago’s center is averaging career highs in points per game, assists per game and minutes per game. She is second on the Sky roster with 14.4 points per game, and has shown that she can knock down the three ball as well. The New York native, who was teammates at UConn for a short time with Breanna Stewart, is splashing 40 percent of her treys in 2017.
The Storm dangles a slight 13-11 all-time advantage over the Sky’s head. The last time the Storm won in Illinois was 2014, before Loyd or Stewart had joined the team.
In the July 18 edition of Storm vs. Sky, Seattle built a 29-11 lead after the first quarter. That would quickly evaporate when the Sky answered with a 30-point second quarter, holding the Storm to just 13. Quigley burned the Storm all night, notching 25 points and banging six threes. Chicago’s bench also did a more than adequate job of supporting the team’s starting five, as it scored 42 points, with each reserve who saw playing time getting at least nine points.
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