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Storm break free from close calls

The Seattle Storm continue to prove that they are a “team of depth,” despite some people only seeing them as Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd.

New York Liberty v Seattle Storm
Briann January (with ball)
Photo by Joshua Huston/NBAE via Getty Images

The Seattle Storm started their current win streak with back-to-back defensive stands on final possessions and then went to overtime for their third win in a row this past Friday. But on Sunday, they came out missing the same four players as they were missing Friday and played the same team in the New York Liberty and came up with a drastically different result, winning 92-61 at Climate Pledge Arena.

For the first time on the winning streak, the Storm (5-3) shot a good percentage from the field (49.3) and they broke 90 points for just the second time this season.

“For us it’s just executing and continuing to get good shots,” Briann January said of the team emerging from its offensive struggles. “We have faith that everybody on our team can knock down the shot. We’re putting everybody in position to be successful and eventually it’s gonna happen. And I think one thing that we’ve continued to talk about is that our defense is gonna continue to carry us.”

Storm head coach Noelle Quinn thought it was more than just a matter of time — that the team had done certain things better en route to its 92 points.

“I think it’s just a matter of being intentional about playing with pace,” she said. “A lot of early drags and just playing in flow. Not a lot of play-calling, just making sure our space and our screening and our ball movement was efficient, that’s the biggest thing. And the second thing was just the confidence and knowing that you can knock down shots.”

Jewell Loyd led the team with 22 points and six assists while Breanna Stewart managed to still be a star without going off for another 30-piece. Stewie finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, five helpers, six steals and two blocks.

“It’s comforting to know when your best player is your hardest worker and able to fill a stat sheet in like that,” Quinn said. “It just sets the tone for everyone else.”

Offseason acquisitions Jantel Lavender (12 points, 10 rebounds) and January (12 points, two steals) also came up big. One day after signing a hardship contract, Kaela Davis added 11 points and two days after a signing a hardship contract, Kiana Williams was good for five points and three assists.

Seattle is a team that has the best one-two scoring punch in the league with Stewart and Loyd, but Quinn doesn’t want those two always isolating and creating for themselves even though Loyd in particular does that extremely well.

“We don’t want to be ball-dominant, we don’t want it to just be one to two,” she said. “We talk about depth and we’re a team of depth. And that is a(n) (11)-year vet in Jantel getting a double-double. That is Bri just setting the tone defensively and stepping in and playing starter minutes because she’s done that her entire career.

“I just think about the pieces that we brought here. We have yet to play one full game with an entire unit, but we are fighting through adversity. And in these moments players are stepping up and showing their capability because it’s going to matter down the road.”

January was of course filling in for Sue Bird as the starting point guard as Bird, Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot were again in health and safety protocols.

“With Sue down, that’s a huge hit for us,” January said. “She’s a big leader on our team. But it’s next woman up. We’ve prepared for this. We have a very veteran team. We have a lot of experience. Stepping in and just filling those roles, I feel like anybody on our team is able to do that.

“For me it was preparation as usual. I don’t feel like my preparation changed much. Both Jantel and I have been in starting roles the majority of our careers, so we know how important a start to a game is. We know our roles within this team. So it was business as usual.”

Lavender (6-of-8 from the field) and January (4-of-6 from the field, 2-of-3 from deep) were both efficient. Davis and Stewart were also 2-of-3 from distance, while Loyd was 4-of-7 and the Storm were 13-of-24 as a team.