Playing without Sue Bird, Mercedes Russell, Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot, the Seattle Storm received 31 points from Breanna Stewart and 21 from Jewell Loyd en route to a 79-71 overtime victory over the New York Liberty Friday night at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.
Stewart scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and overtime combined and added nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Monster performance by the Queen!— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) May 28, 2022
With 31 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals, @breannastewart is tonight's Angel Of The Winds Casino Resort Player of the Game! #TakeCover x @aotwcasino pic.twitter.com/2C5sSVBBZt
Talbot was in health and safety protocols, as were Bird and Magbegor. The team found out about the latter two at the last second and had to sign Kiana Williams to a hardship contract. Russell has yet to play this year due to a non-basketball injury. Stewart and Epiphanny Prince were in health and safety protocols earlier this season, making it five Storm players who have been. The team lost two games without Stewart, but managed to pull above .500 at 4-3 with Friday’s win.
“This season has started a little rough for us,” Loyd said. “But at the same time, everyone in this locker room, they're dogs, and we trust each other. At the end of the day we all know how to play basketball. Stuck to the gameplan. We were able to adapt on the fly when we needed to.”
“I don't think during the game we really noticed that we had seven, eight if you count Kiana,” Stewart said. “We knew what type of game it was gonna be starting from this morning and that was just ‘next person up’ mentality. And trying to get a win, you know, trying to get a win for Sue, for Steph, for Ezi. ... It's resilience. I don’t think you can make this up what we're going through right now.”
“I go in the locker room before the game and it’s just like everyone’s ready to go,” said Storm head coach Noelle Quinn. “We’re not making any excuses. We have a lot of experience in the locker room and a lot of players who have been through a lot. ... And this was just some adversity that hit us. It’s interesting that your character is revealed when you go through things like this and it shows that we are a tight group, a united group, a group that is really willing and ready to go through battle together.”
Starting at point guard in place of Bird, Briann January went 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Gabby Williams had just four points, but nine boards and six steals. New York has been struggling with sending teams to the free throw line too much and sent Stewart there for 18 attempts, 15 of which she made.
Seattle was outrebounded by 12 but won the turnover battle by 13.
Stewart applauded K. Williams for dropping whatever she was doing and suiting up for the Storm. Loyd suggested things could be simpler if the WNBA had a developmental league.
“I think it’s just having a better answer than, ok, we have three players out, two that we find out this morning and it’s just ‘get a hardship player’ at 11 a.m. on a seven o’clock game,” Stewart said. “I know the schedule is really tight. We’re not saying we can’t play New York because obviously we did tonight. But this is the second time that this has happened on a game day. And it’s just a little frustrating.”