Second-half effort lifts Seattle over Phoenix in home opener, 77-68
The Seattle Storm began its 20th season with a victory
Led by forward Natasha Howard who tallied a double-double, the Seattle Storm broke away from a halftime tie to top the Phoenix Mercury 77-68 in a home game opener at Winds Arena in Everett, WA. The arena had a sold-out crowd of 8,500.
“She’s just all over the place,” head coach Gary Kloppenburg said of Howard. “She’s such a complete player. She rebounds, she gets put-backs, she can make threes, she’s a difficult matchup for them….It’s really difficult to zoom in and defend her.”
After receiving their 2018 WNBA championship rings, the Storm endured a tough first half without the services of veteran guard Sue Bird (out indefinitely) and star forward Breanna Stewart (out for the season).
The rocky start for Seattle included a 23-16 lead by the Mercury after the first quarter. Phoenix veterans, center Brittney Griner, guard Essence Carson and forward DeWanna Bonner, helped the Mercury put forward a balanced effort to amass an 11-point lead early in the second quarter. Seattle fought back after free throws from guard Jewell Loyd and a three-point jumper from guard/forward Sami Whitcomb. The Storm finished the second quarter with a 14-3 run to tie the game up going into the break at 32 all.
The last two quarters saw Seattle outscore the Phoenix, most notably in the third period when they outscored the Mercury 24-10 in the first nine minutes.
Second-year guard Jordin Canada helped propel the Storm down the stretch with eight points in the third quarter, including back-to-back layups, including one off a steal. Her layup at 2:11 in the fourth quarter gave the Storm a 13-point lead.
Howard finished with a double-double of 21 points plus 16 rebounds, a career high for caroms. Loyd scored 17 points and dished out four assists. Canada had a career-high of 16 points plus six assists and veteran center Crystal Langhorne contributed 10 plus along with six rebounds.
Bonner had a stellar night, even in the loss, with 31 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Griner added 18 points and eight rebounds. Griner and Bonner were the only Phoenix players to score in the second half, combining for 36 points.
The Storm forced the Mercury into 20 turnovers, a key statistic in the contest.
“That was a good offensive team with Dewanna Bonner and Brittney Griner and I think we made things hard for them,” Kloppenburg said. “Forcing 20 turnovers against a team like that is a good accomplishment and I think at the other end we got to the free throw line and were in attack mode. We wanted to keep Brittney Griner from a lot of screen and roles, having to guard all over the court, and I think for the most part we did that.”
The Storm travel to Minnesota for a Wednesday game beginning a three-game road trip. The Mercury head home to host the Las Vegas Aces on Friday.