By Seth Dahle
Fresh off a hard-fought, five-point win over 2016 playoff contender Indiana, the Seattle Storm heads back to the hardwood on Sunday to face the Washington Mystics, with the tipoff set for 4 p.m. PDT at KeyArena.
Seattle (1-1) led by as many as 10 vs. the Fever but needed a late three-pointer by Breanna Stewart to take the lead, ultimately collecting an 87-82 win on Mother’s Day.
Head coach Jenny Boucek said that while fatigue played a factor due to facing Los Angeles the day before, the team showed “a lot of toughness” and figured out a way to win “when they weren’t feeling their best.”
Although Sue Bird did not dress vs. Indiana, Seattle saw another spectacular performance at the guard position from Jewell Loyd, who netted 27 points and went 10-for-18 from the field for the second-straight game. Loyd has simply been an offensive machine of late, posting back-to-back games with 25 or more points.
“They fought back, but we got it done,” said Loyd after the win over Indiana. “We had a lot of people step up. We want to finish games and get a little tougher. On the road we’re going to need that mental toughness, so we’re going to be working on that in practice and working on offensive flow and getting in that defensive rhythm.”
Stewart added 15 points and seven rebounds in her 2017 debut, while Crystal Langhorne also stepped up, tallying 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting. In addition to making a career-high six free throws, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 12 points off the bench.
“It feels great to be back,” said Stewart. “It sucked to be out, but I’m happy to be back out with my team, get better and build off this.”
Fans certainly made their presence felt in the home opener, as 7,969 piled into KeyArena to witness a big-time three-pointer from Stewart with less than two minutes remaining and perhaps the block of the season by the 2016 WNBA Rookie of the Year.
After the game, Boucek said the team utilized the crowd’s energy.
“We talked about using the crowd and feeling connected to them,” added Boucek. “We know if we do certain things they will respond to that and that gives us a chance to respond back. We have to do our part in that, but this crowd will respond and when they do, it gives us a ton of energy that we needed today.”
AT A GLANCE: MYSTICS
The Washington Mystics (1-0) got a huge upgrade when it acquired Elena Delle Donne, a five-time WNBA All-Star and the 2015 WNBA MVP.
In mid-February, Washington completed one of the biggest trades in WNBA history, acquiring Delle Donne from Chicago in exchange for Stefanie Dolson, Kahleah Copper and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft.
In 2016, Delle Donne finished second in the WNBA in both scoring (21.5 PPG) and free throw percentage (93.5). She hauled in seven boards and dished out 1.9 assists per contest on the way to earning All-WNBA First Team honors for the second time in her career.
In its season opener, Washington defeated San Antonio by 15 (89-74), as Delle Donne led the way with 24 points on 8-for-11 shooting. While Washington became a potential title contender with its new superstar, Delle Donne certainly has help, as Tayler Hill and Emma Meesseman added 15 and 13 points, respectively, vs. the Stars.
Prior to heading to Seattle, the Mystics will play at Los Angeles on Friday at 7:30 p.m. PDT.
Seattle leads the all-time series vs. Washington by a 19-13 margin. The Storm has been dynamite at home with a 13-4 record. Prior to the 2016 campaign, Seattle had won 10 in a row against the Mystics at KeyArena, a streak that dated back to 2005.
In 2016, Seattle went 2-1 vs. Washington, which was picked as the No. 4 team in the preseason AP Power Poll. In the Storm’s lone overtime affair last season, Washington pulled off an 84-82 upset for its first win at KeyArena since July 13, 2005.
FOLLOW STORM BASKETBALL