Seattle Storm wins inaugural Commissioner’s Cup title, beats Sun 79-57
Despite jet lag due to traveling from the Tokyo Summer Games that finished last weekend, the Seattle Storm’s five Olympians led the charge in taking down the Connecticut Sun 79-57 in the first-ever Commissioner’s Cup Championship Thursday night, a midseason event that came with a $500,000 prize pool. The game took place at the home of the Phoenix Mercury, Footprint Center, in downtown Phoenix in front of 5,006 fans.
“I thought this was a very cool environment to be in with a formidable opponent in Connecticut,” Storm head coach Noelle Quinn said. “I thought that the environment, the energy was amazing. The fans are great and it was a very good opportunity for our team to be a part of another first of something, and I’m just glad that we pushed through mental fatigue, physical fatigue and played some great basketball tonight.”
Breanna Stewart, who won the MVP for women’s basketball in the Tokyo Olympics, took control early on, scoring 15 points in the first quarter. The Storm never trailed and took an early 11-4 lead, but the Sun caught up after a three-point shot from DeWanna Bonner. With the game tied at 11 and 3:40 left in the quarter, the Storm went on a 17-7 run to finish the period.
Going into the second quarter, Seattle had a 28-18 lead. The teams had an evenly matched ten minutes before the break, with the Storm only outscoring the Sun 18-17. Seattle headed to halftime with a 46-35 lead. The third quarter was a lost cause for Connecticut as they only scored five points compared to 22 by the Storm.
Overall, the Sun had trouble taking care of the ball, committing 26 turnovers. The Storm outscored their opponent 36-32 in the paint and led in fast-break points 15-10. Seattle earned their biggest lead at 31 early in the fourth quarter.
Stewart, named the event’s MVP, outpaced everyone in scoring, finishing with 17 points plus four rebounds and four steals. Fellow gold medalist, Jewell Loyd, was not far behind with 16 points. And the third U.S. gold medalist on the team, Sue Bird, added 10 points. Storm players Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot played for Australia in the Olympics.
“I thought they had their legs,” Sun head coach Curt Miller said about the performance of the U.S. Olympians. “Stewie [Breanna Stewart] made really tough shots there early. They looked like three players that were averaging about 30 minutes in the Olympics and we looked like it was our first game in nearly five weeks. I worried a little bit about that and we just couldn’t disrupt them.”
For the Sun, DeWanna Bonner and Natisha Hiedeman scored 11 points each. Hiedeman also grabbed five rebounds. Jonquel Jones earned a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Seattle Storm players received $30,000 each for winning the title. As the MVP, Stewart received an extra $5,000. Connecticut Sun players took home $10,000 each.
Bird commented that Storm players had the prize money in mind during the season.
“I think we were one of the few teams that right from the jump, we are like, oh, this is a Commissioner’s Cup game and every time we won, we’d talk about it afterwards, like, Commissioner’s Cup, one step closer to that money. Definitely we were talking about it all year.”
The league’s regular season resumes Sunday, Aug. 15 with all teams in action. Seattle heads to Chicago to face the Sky at 4 p.m. ET to begin a two-week road stretch. The game will be televised on ABC. Connecticut plays at the Dallas Wings at the same time for a game that will be shown on ESPN3, BSSW+ and NESN+.
In the standings, Seattle is in first place (16-5) followed by Las Vegas (15-6) and Connecticut (14-6).