By Seth Dahle
Early turnovers and a rough day from the field plagued the Seattle Storm in its preseason finale, as the team dropped a 72-55 decision to the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday evening at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Despite the setback, the Storm will have a chance for a fresh start on Saturday when it opens the 2017 regular season at Los Angeles, with the tipoff set for 2 p.m. PDT on ESPN.
Phoenix evened the all-time preseason series with Seattle at five games apiece, as Stephanie Talbot and Cayla George shared game-high honors with 16 points apiece.
Seattle got off to a rocky start, missing its first four shots and committing five turnovers to fall behind by nine (13-4) in the first quarter. Meanwhile, Phoenix shot lights out in its preseason home opener, shooting 69.2 percent (9-for-13) and draining five early three’s to take a 25-13 advantage into the second stanza.
Things didn’t get much better in the second quarter, as the Mercury surged to a 19-point (36-17) lead after Danielle Robinson knocked down a floater. Sami Whitcomb drained Seattle’s first trey of the game to bridge the gap to 14 (36-22) at the 3:37 mark, but Phoenix ultimately took a 46-29 advantage into the locker room.
The Storm shot just 34.8 percent (8-for-23) in the opening 20 minutes, compared to a 57.1 clip (16-for-28) by the Mercury. Much of the Mercury damage in the first half came by the way of Talbot, who scored 14 first-half points on a perfect 5-for-5 effort from the field, including three triples.
In the third frame, rookie guard Alexis Peterson finished in the paint to cut the deficit to 15 (46-31), but the Storm never got closer for the rest of the way. Camille Little scored inside to kickstart a17-8 Mercury run to stretch the lead to 24 (63-39), and the Storm’s shooting woes continued with a 6-for-19 third-quarter clip.
Phoenix swelled its lead to as many as 25 (72-47) with 6:03 left to play after Yvonne Turner netted two freebees at the line, and the Storm mustered an 8-0 run before the final buzzer sounded.
“We just didn’t play well offensively at all,” said head coach Jenny Boucek. “It took us a half to start playing well defensively. I thought they played with a lot of energy, and they clearly hit shots. I also thought we laid an egg tonight.”
Jewell Loyd led Seattle with 13 points and five boards, while Whitcomb came off the bench to drill three triples on the way to scoring 12 points. In addition, Jenna O’Hea dished out a team-high four assists.
As a team, the Storm shot 34.5 percent (19-for-55), while the Mercury finished with a 46 percent (23-for-50) clip. Phoenix edged Seattle on the glass, 31-27, and tallied 19 assists.
“I think we try to approach every game whether we win by 20 or lose by 20 in terms of what we need to do better,” added Boucek. “Sometimes if you win and you play that same opponent again, you can let up a little bit, but I don’t know if we did that or not, but that can happen.”
While she did not dress, Kaleena Mosqeuda-Lewis made her return to the Storm sideline after returning from play overseas.
After opening the season on Saturday in Los Angeles, Seattle tips off its home slate on May 14 vs. Indiana at 4 p.m. Fans can secure the best seats in the house with Storm 360 Memberships, available now, starting at $180, available online or by calling (206) 217-WNBA (9622). Packages and group discounts are available at 206-217-WNBA (9622).