By Matthew Roberson
The Seattle Storm (12-16), riding its first winning streak since late May, is all set for a Friday night tango with the San Antonio Stars (7-22). Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m. PDT at KeyArena.
After beating league-leading Minnesota on Wednesday, the Storm will host the team with the league’s worst record. San Antonio heads to the northwest with a 7-22 record and was mathematically eliminated from playoff contention this week. The Storm is a half-game ahead of the Chicago Sky for the league’s eighth and final playoff spot. Beating San Antonio would clinch Seattle’s first three-game winning streak since May 21-28. The Storm played a stout defensive game in its most recent outing, holding the league’s best team to a 33.3 percent field goal percentage and just 61 points. Breanna Stewart posted her eighth double-double of the season, scoring 12 points and finding 11 rebounds. Jewell Loyd added 16, giving her three double-digit scoring games in three matchups with Minnesota this year. Sue Bird is averaging eight assists against the Stars in three games the teams have played this season. Bird is a mere 25 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.
In Wednesday’s win over the Lynx, defense paved the way to victory. The Lynx’s 61 points and 33.3 shooting percentage were both the lowest marks of their season. Only five total players scored more than 10 points, and only two were wearing Minnesota jerseys. Seattle limited Minnesota to an 85.9 offensive rating, well below its season average of 106.6. The win also gave interim head coach Gary Kloppenburg his first win at KeyArena, which he did despite Bird being out with an injury.
AT A GLANCE: STARS
San Antonio is 4-1 in its last five games, equaling an .800 winning percentage that is miles above its season winning percentage of .241. The 4-1 stretch came directly after a three-game losing streak that all but sank the team’s playoff hopes. Head coach Vickie Johnson’s team is averaging 82.8 points per game over its last five. For the season, the team averages just 75.2, the lowest clip in the WNBA.
Two of the wins during this recent hot streak came against the Washington Mystics and New York Liberty, who have the league’s fourth and fifth best records. San Antonio also scrapped its way to an 87-80 overtime win against the Storm on August 5. The last of the four wins in five games was an 84-68 shellacking of the Atlanta Dream. The Stars are 6-4 in their last 10 home games.
Kayla McBride and Isabelle Harrison grab most of the headlines for this San Antonio outfit, and rightfully so. McBride is one of four players in the league to average 15 or more points per game while shooting 90 percent from the free throw line, joining All-Stars Diana Taurasi, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins-Smith. Harrison gets 11 points per contest while plucking 6.5 rebounds and drilling 52.5 percent of her field goal attempts. She is in an exclusive club of players to hit each of those benchmarks. Brittney Griner, Jonquel Jones, Nneka Ogwumike, and Sylvia Fowles are the only other members of the 11-6.5-52 group.
The Storm has built a comfortable lead in the all-time series against San Antonio. The green and gold boast a 37-30 advantage over the silver and black in 67 total meetings. Since 2009, the Storm is 25-12 against its Western Conference rival to the south.
Seattle won the first two games of its schedule against San Antonio before losing on the road in early August. In that most recent loss, both teams were playing the second leg of a back-to-back. The Stars grinded out an overtime win thanks to a career-high 23 points and five three-pointers from rookie Kelsey Plum. Dearica Hamby came off the San Antonio bench for 15 points, six rebounds, and five steals. Stewart also attained a season high that day at AT&T Center, tallying 32 points, while teammate Sami Whitcomb emerged for 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 21 minutes of action.
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