By Matthew Roberson
Playing the fourth game of a five-game road trip, the Seattle Storm (10-15) is set to take on the Eastern Conference-best Connecticut Sun (15-9). The game is going down tomorrow at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., at 7:00 p.m. EDT, and it will be the Storm’s second game on Twitter.
A win for Seattle would allow the team to avoid getting swept by Connecticut, who has dispelled of the Storm twice already in 2017. A loss pushes Seattle’s losing streak to a season-high four games and makes reaching the playoffs an even harder task with the regular season nearing its conclusion. Both defeats at the hands of the Sun have been close, with Seattle losing the two contests by an average of 6.5 points. Connecticut won the most recent matchup 83-79 in the Pacific Northwest. Breanna Stewart hung 22 points on the Sun in that game. She has put together 12 straight 20-point games. Jewell Loyd had 17 points and six assists on 7-for-17 shooting, while Sue Bird dealt seven assists and scored 15 points. Crystal Langhorne did not miss a shot in the July loss to Connecticut, going 5-for-5 and canning two free throws to end with 12 points.
The Storm is in the midst of a three-game losing streak that could put its playoff chances in jeopardy. Seattle is currently tied with the Atlanta Dream for the eighth and final playoff spot, although the surging Chicago Sky is breathing down both teams’ necks at 10-16.
In the seven games following the July 12 defeat to Connecticut – in which she went 0-for-3 from deep – Loyd has been lighting it up from three-point land. Loyd has shot 45.4 percent (15-for-33) from beyond the arc in Seattle’s last seven contests, including a huge three at the end of regulation on Saturday against San Antonio that forced the game into overtime. The Storm’s dynamic two guard is averaging 18.7 points over those last seven games, a stretch that includes three outings of at least 23 points.
Loyd got some help off the bench last game by fellow guard Sami Whitcomb. Whitcomb saw 21 minutes of action in Seattle’s loss to San Antonio on Saturday, and the first-year player scored 11 points while delivering five rebounds, four assists and three steals. After not playing at all in the first half, Whitcomb posted an 11 +/- rating, the highest of any Storm player.
AT A GLANCE: SUN
Connecticut has certainly made its case for being one of the best all-around teams in the WNBA. The Sun has won three in a row and nine of its last 11. Head coach Curt Miller and his team hold a half-game lead over the Washington Mystics for best record in the East, with the Sun trailing just Minnesota and Los Angeles in the league table.
The young, balanced Connecticut roster has shown a tremendous ability to put the ball in the hole. During this current three-game winning streak, the Sun’s offense is averaging 91.7 points. Not only does Connecticut have three All-Stars aged 27 or younger (Alyssa Thomas, Jasmine Thomas, Jonquel Jones), but it also has a 41 percent three-point shooter in Shekinna Stricklen. Connecticut’s sharp-shooter from the University of Tennessee torched Seattle on July 12 for 21 points, drilling a franchise record-tying seven three pointers.
Jones has been the straw that stirs the Sun’s drink in 2017. The second-year pro and native of the Bahamas is the only Connecticut player to start in all 24 of the team’s games thus far. She is the only player in the league averaging a double-double (15.7 points per game, 11.4 rebounds per game), and the 6’6” center also nails 46.2 percent of her threes. The ‘Thomas’ duo of Alyssa and Jasmine is crucial as well. Both players are good for 14 points and four assists a night.
The Storm owns a 2-7 record against the Sun since 2014. Seattle is 3-12 in games played at Mohegan Sun Arena, one of the most unique venues in professional sports.
June 24 of last year marked Seattle’s most recent victory over the Sun. Stewart broke out for 29 points and nine rebounds in that 98-81 decision. The former Connecticut Husky averages 16 points and 11 rebounds in two games played in the state where she dominated as a collegiate star. In addition to being a pivotal game on its 2017 schedule, Storm-Sun also serves as a rematch of the 2004 WNBA Finals, which Seattle won 2-1 to bring home its first championship.
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