During the previous two weeks, the Storm haven’t had much time for practice while logging five games in 10 days during their longest road trip of the season.
Seattle returned home and had two days of practice to prepare for a talented Washington Mystics team led by perennial WNBA All-Star Elena Delle Donne.
The time on the court allowed Jewell Loyd to reclaim her shooting touch after two dismal outings and coach Noelle Quinn to devise a defensive game plan that worked to perfection during an 85-71 win in front of 9,888 at Climate Pledge Arena to start a four- game homestand.
“There was good effort all around,” Quinn said. “Offensively, we got into a good flow early. Defensively, we were locked in and understanding Elena is a load, but I thought we were very attentive to detail with our schemes.
“It’s always great to score 85, but also 25 assists and 12 turnovers is amazing as well. … It feels good to come back and win at home against a very good Washington team.”
Loyd took umbrage with the term “shooting slump,” despite connecting on just 6 of 26 shots from the field, including 4 of 13 from long range and averaging 8.5 points in the previous two outings.
However, the Storm star admitted she needed to recalibrate her shooting stroke.
“Just getting back to the basics,” Loyd said. “I had time to form shoot. Get in the gym early. Not over think it. I know what I’m capable of. I know what we’re all capable of. Just trying to not lose confidence in my abilities. Just got in the gym, played some music and got some shots up.”
Against the Mystics, Loyd scored a game-high 22 points while connecting on 7 of 14 shots, including 6 of 8 on three-pointers in 32½ minutes.
“I just wasn’t thinking as much,” she said. “Just really got into the flow of things. Knowing (my teammates) never lost confidence in me helped a lot. But I just try to play as free as possible.”
Ezi Magbegor finished with 20 points in 36 minutes while Breanna Stewart tallied 19 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and Sue Bird added 12 points and eight assists for Seattle.
Since their 5-5 start, the Storm have won six of their past seven games to improve to 11-6 and climb to fourth in the WNBA standings, just 2½ games out of first place.
The Storm shot 45.6% from the field, including 12 of 26 (46.2%) on three-pointers while holding the Mystics to 37.1% shooting.
Washington took a brief 37-36 lead late in the second quarter but Seattle ended the period with a 10-0 run.
Late in the third quarter, the Storm stretched their lead 63-50 and were up 67-57 at the start of the fourth.
Washington trimmed its deficit to 71-69 when Stewart answered with a three-pointer.
Minutes later, Stewart and Magbegor trapped Elena Delle Donne on the baseline to force a turnover that resulted in Bird’s three-pointer, which drew loud applause.
On Seattle’s next possession, Stewart’s three-point play gave Seattle an 80-69 lead and Washington never seriously threatened again.
“We got stops,” Quinn said. We contested their shooters. We rebounded well. We got very good looks. We played at pace.”
Stewart added: “We knew those next (six) minutes were going to be tough and really getting back to our schemes. Running the floor. When we can get out in transition, it might not be the person running but someone is always going to get open. We had to get back to the pace that we wanted to play.”
Delle Donne had 20 points, Myisha Hines-Allen 12 and Alysha Clark and Ariel Atkins each had 11 for the Mystics (11-9).
Seattle forced 12 Washington turnovers that led to 16 points.
“Our team has done a very good job over the course of the road trip and a couple of practices to be connected in those areas,” Quinn said when asked about the Storm’s trapping defense. “Maybe a couple of weeks ago, the communication and the timing and togetherness of that wasn’t quite there yet. So it’s good to see that clicked. We were on a string. We were communicating and having each other’s backs.”
– Mercedes Russel, who has played my headache in just five games due to a recurrent syndrome, is participating in noncontact on-court activities, Quinn said. Russell has not played since June 12.
– On Thursday night, Bird tied former Minnesota star Lindsay Whalen for the most career WNBA wins with 323.