When the Washington Mystics traded former All-Star Crystal Langhorne to the Seattle Storm on the night of the 2014 WNBA Draft, the general sentiment among fans on Twitter and elsewhere around the web was that the Storm had gotten a steal.
Thus far the deal has been anything but a "steal" for a Storm team that arrived in D.C. today without a win. Yet Langhorne still left an impression on D.C. fans in Seattle's 73-65 win over Washington tonight.
Langhorne had a game-high 14 rebounds - including a game-high 4 (of the team's 5) offensive rebounds - to help Seattle control the paint in a game that featured plenty of missed shots from both teams. However, what really carried the Storm to victory was their perimeter shooting, which is fitting given the narrative surrounding the Langhorne trade.
What made the Langhorne trade so appealing from a Storm perspective was that they have the shooters to put around Langhorne; those shooters took on a prominent role during the third quarter of tonight's game when Seattle shot 72.7% from the field and 60% from beyond the arc. A 12-2 Storm run over two minutes in the middle of the third quarter - which included two threes from Shekinna Stricklen and another from Alysha Clark - gave the Storm a 10-point cushion that proved enough to earn a win in a game where neither team shot over 40% in the first half.
Although that perimeter shooting is what shows up in the box score, Langhorne's offensive contribution might be more difficult to discern.
Despite a dominant rebounding performance on a night that Washington shot just 36.9% from the field, Langhorne had just six points and no free throw attempts. Nevertheless, what might explain her +11 plus/minus - second-highest of the game behind Stricklen, who got the bulk of her minutes in the third quarter - is that she drew double teams from her former teammates that created space for Seattle's perimeter shots and drives. In a game where Seattle shot 5-for-10 from beyond the arc in the second half with Sue Bird scoring 10 of her game-high 16 points along with a game-high 5 assists, Langhorne's post scoring presence wasn't needed.
For the Mystics, second-year forward Emma Meesseman scored 10 of her game-high 12 points in the first half, showing off her shooting touch from both the mid-range and in the paint. Unfortunately, when Meesseman went just 1-for-3 in the second half, the Mystics didn't have anyone else to pick up the slack as they shot just 35.3% in the second half. Meesseman and rookie center Stefanie Dolson had a team-high five rebounds apiece.
The Mystics came into this game with a built-in excuse as they were playing the second game of a back-to-back, but as they struggled to knock down shots the game pretty much illustrated where they have been in recent years with or without Langhorne: they don't have that established go-to star who can carry them on off nights against a winless team and, absent that, are probably doing the right thing by finally focusing on internal development.