Seattle Storm open WNBA season with win regardless of lacking stars

EVERETT, Wash. — With 1:10 left in Saturday’s season opener for each groups, the Phoenix Mercury minimize the Seattle Storm’s result in six on a Brittney Griner layup. As performing Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg drew up a play within the following timeout, his choices had been far totally different than they had been when Seattle defeated Phoenix in a basic, five-game, semifinals matchup final fall on the way in which to profitable the WNBA championship.

Again then, Storm coach Dan Hughes — who’s nonetheless a number of weeks away from a return to full-time teaching after present process surgical procedure to take away a carcinoid tumor from his digestive monitor final week, leaving veteran assistant Kloppenburg to run the group — might have referred to as a play involving WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart or veteran All-Star Sue Fowl. Each stars watched from the sideline Saturday, Stewart out for the yr after struggling a ruptured Achilles enjoying abroad and Fowl set to endure arthroscopic surgical procedure on her left knee.

So as a substitute, it was Fowl’s backup, second-year guard Jordin Canada, who remoted in opposition to Mercury defender Yvonne Turner, retreating practically to half courtroom because the clock ticked down earlier than beating Turner to the rim for a contested end that pushed Seattle’s result in a three-possession margin. Phoenix would get no nearer, because the Storm opened the season with a 77-68 victory at Everett’s Angel of the Wind Area, one among two momentary properties the group will make use of this season whereas Seattle’s KeyArena is beneath building.

With Breanna Stewart out for the season and Sue Fowl sidelined indefinitely, Natasha Howard led Seattle with 21 factors and a career-high 16 rebounds. Olivia Vanni/The Herald by way of AP

Regardless of Canada’s late heroics, together with a collection of powerful scores that gave her a career-high 16 factors in her third profession begin, the Storm gained this recreation on the defensive finish — the group’s id with out Fowl and Stewart within the lineup.

“That is what we deal with lots,” mentioned ahead Natasha Howard, who had 5 of the Storm’s 10 steals. “When our protection goes, our offense begins rolling on the identical time. When all people is all in it collectively on protection, it pays off on the offensive finish.”

Early on, the Mercury scored seemingly at will, making the most of eight first-quarter, Seattle turnovers to construct a 23-16 lead. However from there, the Storm put the clamps on the Phoenix offense, permitting simply 9 factors within the second quarter and 25 within the second and third mixed. Giving up measurement to Griner, Seattle swarmed her with a number of defenders, irritating the Mercury’s 6-foot-9 star. She turned over the ball six instances and shot simply 9-of-19 from the sphere, scoring 18 factors.

2 Associated

The Storm had been capable of make the most of Phoenix’s personal transition at level guard. Diana Taurasi, the WNBA’s all-time main scorer, ran the Mercury’s offense final season. However Taurasi, too, is sidelined by damage to start the yr, having undergone again surgical procedure a month in the past that’s anticipated to maintain her out via midseason. With out Taurasi, Phoenix struggled to seek out the appropriate stability between attacking early and executing the half-court offense.

“I discovered we’re not the place we must be,” Mercury coach Sandy Brondello mentioned. “We simply have no actual management on the market. Diana performed so many minutes final yr. She’s our level guard. We’re making an attempt to place Vonnie [Yvonne Turner] and Bri [Briann January] on the market they usually’re not fairly there. We simply want extra repetitions.

“I feel Canada led that group higher than our level guards did.”

The Mercury additionally performed with out energy forwards Camille Little and Sancho Lyttle, beginning a small lineup with DeWanna Bonner at energy ahead. Although such lineups had been efficient for Phoenix final season, Seattle was capable of exploit them on the glass, outrebounding the Mercury 7-Zero by way of offensive rebounds within the first half to outlive frigid, 34 p.c taking pictures and take a tie to the locker room.

“We are saying we need to be a greater defensive- and offensive-rebounding group, and we did not present a lot of that tonight,” Brondello mentioned. “We had zero at halftime. That is simply effort and pursuit. Take a look at Howard. We knew what she was going to do, and he or she nonetheless acquired there together with her effort, so hat’s off to her. Sancho shall be again quickly, and I do not learn about Camille, however we simply should get higher and be taught from this.”

Phoenix discovered extra traction within the second half with Bonner at small ahead. She scored 15 consecutive Mercury factors in a single stretch throughout the third and fourth quarters, ending with a game-high 31 on 10-of-23 taking pictures. Bonner was an ideal Eight-of-Eight from the foul line.

DeWanna Bonner scored 31 factors for Phoenix, together with 15 straight at one level on the finish of the third and starting of the fourth quarters. Joshua Huston/NBAE by way of Getty Pictures

By then, nonetheless, the Storm’s offense had discovered its footing. Jewell Loyd, the Storm’s remaining wholesome All-Star, acquired cooking after scoring simply three factors within the first half. Loyd scored 14 after halftime. Howard discovered success attacking off the dribble, scoring 9 of her 21 factors within the third quarter. (She additionally pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds, making an unlimited influence at each ends of the courtroom.) And Canada, who struggled with turnovers within the first half (6), was stronger with the basketball.

“I believed the primary half, I used to be overthinking it an excessive amount of,” Canada mentioned. “I wasn’t enjoying with a whole lot of poise and endurance. However within the second half, my teammates and coaches talked to me and advised me to only keep within the second.”

The sort of offensive stability Seattle discovered after halftime — Crystal Langhorne, Stewart’s alternative within the beginning 5, additionally scored 10 factors, and fifth starter Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis had eight factors in 19 minutes filling in for a resting Alysha Clark — shall be crucial for the Storm with out Fowl and Stewart. Seattle won’t have its stars. However the remaining gamers from final yr’s championship group might be efficient in the event that they play their video games.

“I do not assume it is as much as Jordin to go on the market and be like me,” Fowl mentioned. “She will solely be herself. That is actually what we have seen in coaching camp is simply Jordin being herself. She simply must deliver that on daily basis.”

If she does, the Storm reminded everybody on Saturday in entrance of a nationwide TV viewers that they are nonetheless an element within the WNBA.

“Do not doubt us,” mentioned Howard when requested what message the win despatched. “Though we do not have two gamers as a result of accidents, simply do not doubt us. Something can occur this season, so the assertion is: Simply do not doubt us.”

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