After losing its season opener at Los Angeles, the Storm bounced back on Friday by earning a road victory against a team projected by many to win the WNBA title. Seattle guard Jewell Loyd scored a career-high 30 points, including the game-winning jump shot with 2.9 seconds remaining, to secure an 81-80 win over the Mercury.
Phoenix has been one of the league’s best teams in recent years, and it hadn’t lost to the Storm since 2013. Here are three takeaways from Friday’s impressive victory.
Loyd Puts on a Show
The WNBA’s new leader in points per game is just 22 years old, and she resides in the Emerald City. During her rookie season, the most points Loyd scored was 21. Now she’s averaging 25 on 52.9 percent shooting through two games of her second year, thanks to a 20-point night on opening weekend and the 30-point outburst Friday night. The Notre Dame product made more three-pointers against Phoenix (three) than she did in any game as a rookie.
Before her game-winner in the final seconds, Loyd also hit a crucial jumper with 41.9 seconds left to bring the Storm within one at 80-79. She scored the final 10 points for Seattle, finishing the fourth quarter with 12 on 6-of-7 field goals. The reigning Rookie of the Year became just the sixth player in franchise history to score 30 points.
“She’s going to be a heck of a player in this league for a long time,” Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi said after the game. “She can do so much on the court, grab so much attention. She was awesome. Our goal was to limit her, and we didn’t do that as a team. She pretty much got whatever shot whenever she wanted it.”
It’s Not How You Start…
Loyd finished 12-of-20 from the field and Seattle got the victory, but it wasn’t pretty in the early going. The Storm trailed by as many as 13 in the first quarter, making just four of its first 17 shots and committing four turnovers in the process. Loyd had two of those turnovers, and she finished the opening period at 1-of-5 from the floor.
Down 23-12 after one, Seattle would go on to outscore the Mercury in each of the remaining quarters. In addition to Loyd’s clutch shooting, rookie Breanna Stewart had a strong second half of nine points and 10 rebounds to earn her first career double-double (14 points, 13 boards). Matched up with 6-9 center Brittney Griner, the 6-4 Stewart finished with seven more rebounds than Griner.
“We’re just really relentless,” Loyd said. “I think today showed, not just everyone but ourselves, that we can fight back. We can get down and fight back. We just made them take really hard shots and stuck with it. We just need to keep battling, and that’s what happened tonight.”
Outside shooting had cost Seattle in its season opener last Sunday, when the Storm shot just 1-for-10 from deep. Friday night, Loyd and company made seven three-pointers in the second quarter alone to climb back into the game. They finished 9-of-23 from beyond the arc compared to 8-of-24 for Phoenix.
Stewart chipped in with her first two WNBA three-pointers, and Sue Bird also had an outstanding shooting performance, sinking four of her seven long-range attempts. The veteran point guard finished the night with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists.