ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo said at halftime of Sunday night’s Storm/Aces game that Seattle wasn’t going to shoot 31 percent for the game. Well, it improved to 35.5 percent, but that wasn't enough of an improvement to come up with the win.
The Storm (1-1) simply did not hit enough shots and Vegas played with an energy that peaked at the right time. A’ja Wilson emphatically blocked an Ezi Magbegor shot with with 1:42 remaining to preserve a six-point lead and on the ensuing Storm inbound, Kelsey Plum stole the ball en route to a fast break layup. After that, baskets were exchanged before Breanna Stewart missed a three that would have cut it to five with 56 ticks to go. Miss clutch herself Chelsea Gray then put the exclamation point on the Aces win with a three at the 30-second mark.
Playing without Mercedes Russell, the Storm were still able to go on their runs and managed to obtain a slim lead early in the fourth, demonstrating that the combo of Stewart and Jewell Loyd is enough to single-handedly make them competitive in any game. Stewart finished with a game-high 21 points and Loyd added 19. Although they were cold from the field overall, the Storm shot a decent 32.4 percent from deep (11-of-34) with Stewart going 3-of-7 and Loyd going 3-of-8.
The Aces (2-0) were simply on a mission. While their energy peaked at the end of the game with key hustle plays, it was there all along. Wilson make not have the guardlike skills of Stewart or the creation abilities of Loyd, but she has games where she just outworks everyone and that was the case Sunday night. She and fellow forward Dearica Hamby moved at the speed of guards with and without the ball and were explosive and athletic in everything they did, including going to the glass.
What a game for @_ajawilson22 and @dearicamarie!— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) May 9, 2022
Hamby: 10 PTS / 19 REB
Wilson: 20 PTS / 15 REB / 5 BLK
Hamby + Wilson tied the WNBA record for rebounds by a pair of teammates (34).
Wilson + Cambage had 34 in a game for the Aces last year.
It also should be noted that Wilson was 1-of-1 from beyond the arc in this game.
A dejected Wilson was interviewed by LaChina Robinson in between the third and fourth quarters with her team down one. It was a brief moment where the energy seemed to be sucked out of the Aces’ Michelob ULTRA Arena, but Wilson’s dissatisfaction only fueled her and her team’s fourth-quarter heroics.
You can’t fault the Storm’s effort, but they weren’t unable to suck the energy out of Michelob for an extended period of time. Ultimately, you have to chalk this one up to a cold shooting night and running into a team that has a chip on its shoulder after the departure of Liz Cambage took away its favorite status.
“Tough one on the road,” Seattle head coach Noelle Quinn said. “Shot a lot of shots, didn’t make a lot of shots, got outrebounded by a ton. But at the end of the day this is a growing process for us and we have to (go) back to the drawing board and improve in a lot of ways. Proud of the effort, we battled. Just some timely miscues defensively and couldn’t hit some shots down the stretch.”
Seattle’s three starters besides Stewart and Loyd combined to score just 11 points give the lineup 51 points compared to 79 from Vegas’ starting bunch. In the Storm’s opener, great bench play was a key storyline and that was again the case on Sunday. One bench player, Epiphanny Prince, who is an accomplished WNBA player who has been an afterthought in her time in Seattle, scored 11 points on 2-of-3 shooting from long range to follow up a 13-point effort on 3-of-3 in the opener. If she is truly having a career resurgence, that bodes well for the Storm.
Also of note in this game, Stewart reached 3,000 career points.