Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles and Jewell Loyd did most of their damage in the first half of Thursday night’s 106-69 shellacking of the Los Angeles Sparks at Crypto.com Arena.
Stewart had 12 points in the first quarter and seven points in the second, while in the second Charles and Loyd had eight and nine, respectively, to give them 10 and 11 in the first half, respectively. That’s 40 points combined from the trio through the first two frames. Stewart would finish with 23, Charles with 18 and Loyd with 16 (17 combined in the second half). Everyone on the team played under 30 minutes in the blowout.
Stewart was 9-of-15 from the field, Charles was 8-of-12 and Loyd was 5-of-11. None of the members of Seattle’s supporting cast shot below 50 percent with each making at least two field goals. That was six players with Sue Bird, who missed her regular-season farewell to Los Angeles due to personal reasons, and Mercedes Russell (non-basketball injury) being the only Storm players who didn’t play. As a result of the efficient shooting across the board, Seattle’s team field goal percentage of 64.6 broke a franchise record.
The hot shooting was a welcome sight for a team that started the season 1-3 largely due to cold shooting. Even in their next three games after the 1-3 start, all wins, they continued to shoot poorly.
The Storm’s shooting since those early-season struggles has only gotten them to ninth place in the league in field goal percentage (43.1).
The fact that Stewart, Loyd and Charles all scored 16-plus was also a welcome sight, because, just like shooting had been an issue in the past, the chemistry between those three players was in question through Charles’ first few games as a member of the Storm.
Last year, Charles (then a Mystic, 23.4 points per game), Stewart (20.3) and Loyd (17.9) were first, third and seventh in the league in scoring, respectively. That was 61.6 points per game combined. Of course, that number isn’t what’s expected on average when all three have to share the ball on the same team. As a season high, you can expect more than 57 or 61, but 57 is pretty close to a best-case scenario, especially in what was Charles’ fifth game with the team.
The 37-point win tied a franchise record for largest margin of victory in a road game. The fact that the team scored 106 points total and won by 37 shows that it did not suffer because Stewart, Charles and Loyd took the most shots. Overall, this win shows just how scary the Storm can be moving forward.
However, LA is just 10-12 and was missing key players in Brittney Sykes, Chiney Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver and Chennedy Carter.
So far with Charles on the squad, the Storm have an impressive 10-point win over the second-place Las Vegas Aces, two comfortable wins over the last-place Indiana Fever, the shellacking of LA and one loss, which came by 14 points to the 10-12 Atlanta Dream, a team Seattle should have been able to beat even without Charles.
Charles had just two points in 14 minutes and was 1-of-6 from the field (0-of-2 from three) against Atlanta. You have to wonder if Charles made the Storm worse than they would have been otherwise in that game. Not to be overly critical of a team that is 4-1 with its new star, but we’ve seen super teams backfire in both the WNBA and the NBA.
And that loss to the Dream brings sobering thoughts to a team that isn’t going to have a lot of room for error against the Chicago Sky, Aces and Connecticut Sun when the championship is on the line. Acquiring Charles made the Storm a super team, but they are still not the clear-cut favorite with so many other loaded teams.
However, the overall takeaway from Thursday night should be excitement, because the 57-point combination came further into Charles’ adjustment to the Storm than the loss to Atlanta. It probably is more indicative of what Seattle will play like with her, though of course there will be off nights and terrific nights regardless of what the typical performance ends up being.
“We know Tina’s one of the best players in this league, an amazing player, and very efficient tonight,” Stewart said. “And I think that, as Jewell touched on earlier, as she gets more comfortable in what we’re trying to do in our offense, she gonna continue to gain confidence and know what she wants to do, know where her spots are. And we saw glimpses of that tonight and it’s only gonna get better.”