A few articles ago, I said the Seattle Storm were “embarrassingly by their standards” near the bottom of the league in field goal percentage. Speaking of embarrassingly by their standards, the following happened Friday night:
The Seattle Storm — who are still awaiting the return of Sue Bird from COVID — were held to 51 points in tonight’s loss to Dallas — their fewest since scoring 45 against on 6/9/2015… and their lowest scoring output in a game in Breanna Stewart's career— Alexa Philippou (@alexaphilippou) June 4, 2022
Stewart did her job with 27 points, eight rebounds three steals and four blocks and Jewell Loyd had a solid 13 points and four assists, but the next highest scorer on the team had just four points. The depth that the Storm have praised themselves for this season simply wasn't there.
“At the beginning of the season, our reserves held us and kept us in games and came through,” said head coach Noelle Quinn. “It’s not necessarily I feel like with this team one third person, but like multiple efforts from multiple people. And it is important. We can’t continue to rely on one and two, that’s not how we’re built. We’re built to move the ball, flow, everybody gets some looks, everybody gets into their sweet spots. But right now we’re not even moving the ball and flowing as much we should. And yeah, we need some contributions everywhere.”
The ball movement and flow was probably lacking due to Bird’s absence, so it's somewhat excusable. And what Ezi Magbegor brings to the table is underrated and she was also out. She is the team’s third-leading scorer at 10.8 points per game. Still, the Storm did not look good.
“I think that in the beginning of the game we were a little bit uncomfortable,” Stewart said. “I don’t think we were flowing the way that we wanted to. Then it was a stretch where we were getting good shots, good looks that we would take that haven’t dropped. And then it was just back to a little bit of not in the flow and the rhythm that we want. I think all of this is self-inflicted. Our defense was pretty good, giving up 68 points total is pretty good. But when we barely get over the 50-point hump — we’ve got a lot to work on.”
“Honestly I think we’re just missing shots,” Loyd said. “They’re good shots. I don’t feel like anything’s forced or bad shots, it’s just finding a rhythm. We’ll be more consistent with that and we know that. ... We’ll figure out how to get in a better rhythm, whether that’s better play calls, getting in more of a flow. We can fix that.”
The Storm are now 5-4 and four losses is nowhere near enough to say this team is struggling, but the embarrassing nature of Friday’s loss brought up questions about what it felt like for Stewart and Loyd to deal with something so disappointing.
“I mean, my first two years we were less than .500,” Stewart said. “I think that this is not the time to like hit the panic button, this is the time to like figure shit out. And that’s what we need to do. We have a team full of vets. Obviously hoping to get our other two back at some point. But while they are out, we need to be better. I mean, I don’t know the last time we had two fast break points. Like only two. And we want to push the ball. So there’s a lot of things we can nitpick about tonight. And we’re gonna take it, we’re gonna digest it, we’re gonna go home. But we have a game on Sunday. So it’s turn around, focus on Connecticut.
“Last year I’m sure we lost to a team by 20 points. It happens to us every year. Usually it’s the day game on the East Coast. But it happens. I’m not worried, Jewell’s not worried, nobody on our staff is worried. We’re confident with people we have in our room and on our team. And Noey touched on it: we play basketball for a living. It’s our job to go out and perform and play well and we’re gonna do that.
“I think the biggest thing is we can’t let our confidence waver. We know who we are, we know how we play and we need to do it.”
The 2016 and 2017 Storm both had the current big three of Stewart, Loyd and Bird and went 16-18 and 15-19, respectively. And Stewart and Loyd, though very young those seasons, were not far at all from the players they are today. The addition of Natasha Howard in 2018 helped the Storm win the WNBA title and Howard was again a key member of the team when they won it again in 2020. Last year without Howard, Seattle was a very good 21-11 and won the Commissioner’s Cup. They weren’t able to prove they could win it all without Howard, but didn't have a fair shot with Stewart missing the playoffs.