By Matthew Roberson
One week after beating Dallas at KeyArena, the Seattle Storm (10-13) is set to face the Wings (11-14) on Friday, Aug. 4 in Arlington, Texas. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. PDT.
A win for Seattle would give the franchise its first sweep of Dallas since the 2012 season, when the team played in Tulsa. Seattle has taken the previous two meetings by an average of 18 points. In the most recent meeting on July 28, the Storm cruised to a 109-93 win that set a franchise record for field goal percentage and tied the marks for field goals made and assists in a single game. Breanna Stewart racked up 20 points and nine rebounds against the Dallas frontcourt. Jewell Loyd matched her season-high with 27 points, giving her her 12th career 25-point outing. Every member of the Storm’s starting five finished with double-digit point totals, and Sami Whitcomb made three deep balls off the bench to add nine points of her own. Seattle’s 109 points was the second most in team history.
Dallas currently sits seventh in the WNBA standings, narrowly holding on to one of the eight playoff spots. Seattle is lurking behind in the ninth spot, hoping to earn another crucial win on Friday against one of the teams standing in its way. Losing at home would give Dallas its sixth defeat at College Park Center this season and hand the team its third three-game losing streak of 2017.
After the game vs. the Wings, the Storm will make the quick trip to San Antonio for a game on Saturday night against the Stars (4-21). That game will get underway at 5:00 p.m. PDT at the AT&T Center. This is Seattle’s second set of back-to-back games this year.
2017 has been a tough season for San Antonio, who is likely on its way to its second straight No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft. The Storm is 2-0 against the silver and black this season and has won four straight over the Stars dating back to 2016. Stewart has played five games against the Stars in her young career and notched at least 19 points in all of them. The second-year forward averages 21.2 points per game in matchups with San Antonio. Loyd has five career games with 15 or more points against the Stars. In the two previous triumphs over San Antonio this season, Stewart has scored 22 points in both. Seattle has shot 44.8 percent from the field in the first two games, averaging 80 points a game and holding San Antonio to 66.5.
Both Texas teams have areas where they struggle immensely, and they come at opposite ends of the floor. Dallas has the worst defense in the league. The Wings allow opponents to score 89.1 points per game, and their opposition nails 48.9 percent of its field goals, both of which are the worst ranks in the league. Advanced stats are not kind to Dallas’ D either, as head coach Fred Williams’ team possesses the WNBA’s worst defensive rating (108.4) and opponents’ effective field goal percentage (53.2 percent).
San Antonio enters the weekend with the league’s least productive offense. The Stars score a league-worst 73.7 points per game and make 28 field goals per contest, which is also last in the WNBA. In addition to having the lowest offensive rating in the association (93.8), the Stars also play at the slowest pace (73.4).
The Storm has been plagued by inconsistency all season. After starting the season 5-2, the team has won just five games since and has failed to win consecutive games since May 26 and May 28. Stewart spoke recently about how the team can improve as the season enters the stretch run.
“I think the biggest thing is just continuing to fight throughout the entire forty minutes of the game,” Stewart said. “There’s spurts where we get frustrated, we put ourselves down, our heads down, and instead we need to continue to look forward to the next game and focus on that and not letting other teams do what they want and let them take the game.”
AT A GLANCE: WINGS
The Wings have hit a turbulent part of their schedule, as the team is 4-6 in its last 10 games and 1-2 since the All-Star break. Dallas lost 95-74 to the Los Angeles Sparks in its most recent performance. That defeat was the fifth time this season the Wings have lost by 20 points or more.
All-Star Skylar Diggins-Smith continues to pilot the Wings’ offense. She is both their leading scorer and assister, at 18.4 and 5.8 per game, respectively. Diggins-Smith is one of two players in the league – along with Elena Delle Donne – who can say they average 18 points a game while boasting 40/33/90 shooting splits. She is the only player in the WNBA who scores 18 a game while dishing five assists.
Diggins-Smith is supported on offense by the trio of Glory Johnson, Allisha Gray, and Karima Christmas-Kelly. Johnson is the second-leading scorer on the team at 13.6 per game, while also corralling a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. Gray scores at a 12.8 per game clip, tops among all rookies. Christmas-Kelly scores just above 10 points every time she hits the floor, while also gathering four rebounds and sinking over 85 percent of her foul shots. This makes her one of nine players in the league to hit all those benchmarks.
AT A GLANCE: STARS
The Stars have had a season they’d like to forget, but they are hoping to finish strong in their last eight games of the schedule. San Antonio got off to a good start, upsetting New York on Tuesday by a 93-81 margin.
Kayla McBride has been arguably the brightest Star this season. She is netting 16.2 points per game while shooting a third-best in the league percentage of 92.6 from the free throw stripe. McBride also gobbles up 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. Her 33.0 success rate from outside paired with 2.2 assists per game make her a tough matchup for any backcourt in the league.
Aside from McBride, the Stars have several other intriguing young players. Center Isabelle Harrison has emerged as an effective post player, averaging 11.4 points per game in her first year wearing the San Antonio jersey. Harrison drains 51.7 percent of her shot attempts. Moriah Jefferson – who like Harrison is in her second year in the league – leads the team in assists. She checks in at 9.3 points per game on 45 percent on three pointers. Rookie Kelsey Plum, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 draft out of the University of Washington, gets 6.9 points and 2.5 assists in 19.4 minutes per game.
The Storm owns a 3-2 record against the Wings since the team relocated to Dallas. In all games against the franchise, including ones when it was in Tulsa and Detroit, Seattle is 28-20.
Seattle is 37-29 against San Antonio, a team it has played at least three times every year since 2000. However, the Storm is just 14-18 in games played on the Stars’ home court. This season, the Storm is 4-0 against the Texas teams. After this weekend, the team will have finished its 2017 slate with Dallas, but will host San Antonio one more time on Aug. 18.
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