The Seattle Storm won Game 1 of the 2018 WNBA Finals against the Washington Mystics, 89-76. Here’s how it went down.
Washington turned the ball over way too much, way too early
The Mystics were very careless in the first quarter, turning the ball over five times which turned into six Storm points. Careless passes by the Mystics were turned into fast-break buckets by the Storm.
Great for Storm fans, nightmarish for Mystics fans.
Natasha Howard blew open the game in the first quarter
The Storm took control of the game in more ways than just fast-break points. Natasha Howard made all of her baskets in the first quarter, scored 10 points, and all too often made it look way too easy — like this:
Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart scored big time in the middle of the game
Loyd is an All-Star but is often overshadowed by reigning MVP Breanna Stewart and long-time franchise player Sue Bird. But Loyd was on fire in Game 1, scoring 23 points on 9-of-12 shooting and making all three of her three-point attempts.
Meanwhile, reigning WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart scored 22 points, grabbed 3 rebounds and dished 5 assists in the game.
Ariel Atkins was Washington’s bright spot in the loss
Both Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver were limited on offense, scoring a combined 15 points on Friday. LaToya Sanders, meanwhile, went scoreless, as she dealt with a broken knuckle on her shooting hand.
The broadcast just said LaToya Sanders dealing with a broken knuckle on her shooting hand. Not sure I heard that previously. That hurts.— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) September 8, 2018
With two of the Mystics’ starters playing injured (Delle Donne from her knee, Sanders with her knuckle) — and a third having an off night (Toliver) — only Natasha Cloud and rookie Ariel Atkins scored in double figures. Cloud scored 11 points and had a good game, but Atkins was spectacular, banking 10-of-14 from the field, including 10 points in the third quarter.
Rookie @HeirTrip with 10 PTS in the 3Q! #WNBAFinals— WNBA (@WNBA) September 8, 2018
She is 2 points away from becoming the #WNBA all-time leader in rookie points scored in the postseason!
Watch LIVE on ESPN and ESPNews pic.twitter.com/0aaJoQP2XR
Though Atkins would have preferred to come out of Game 1 with a victory, she also surpassed Maya Moore with the most points scored by a rookie in the postseason.
What the Mystics must do to make it a series on Sunday
The Mystics aren’t quite at the brink of elimination. But they must make the following adjustments or this series will be a sweep at their expense after Game 3 on Wednesday.
- Take better care of the basketball. Washington had a very poor start to Game 1 due to turnovers, and they never could recover. Taking better care of the basketball will help the Mystics keep the game close and give them a chance to win.
- Give Krystal Thomas or Myisha Hines-Allen more time if LaToya Sanders is still hurt. Thomas, the Mystics’ starting center from last season, fell out of the rotation early in the 2018 campaign and never recovered. If there’s something that makes players unhappy or raises their motor, it’s a lack of playing time. With Sanders not 100% due to the hand injury, it won’t hurt bringing out Thomas to change up the dynamic in the frontcourt. Meanwhile, rookie post Hines-Allen scored eight points and made all her shots in Game 1. The Mystics can certainly use that type of performance from her again in Game 2.
- Kristi Toliver must find some shooting consistency. Toliver plays like an elite player when she’s hot. But she is also prone to cold shooting nights, like Game 1 of the Finals and even the first three games of the semifinals series against the Atlanta Dream. Seeing Toliver shoot 2-of-11 from the field just isn’t something the Mystics can afford, especially when Elena Delle Donne is still limited.
The Storm host the Mystics again in Game 2 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday, Sept. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.