Seattle, WA – With five minutes left in the first game of their round one matchup, it seemed like the Washington Mystics had things in control over the Seattle Storm. Seattle needed a hero late, and the important shots would come from a player who only had four points going into the final quarter. Jewell Loyd exploded for 12 points in the final ten minutes, the Storm got some clutch rebounds and defensive stops, and Seattle would take a thrilling game one.
A key to the game identified by Storm head coach Noelle Quinn pregame was to try and contain two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne. Seattle was able to do a decent job through the first three quarters, but the final period had Delle Donne’s fingerprints all over it. Every time the Storm would make a run and look to close out the game, Delle Donne would hit a tough bucket in response. The Mystics superstar nearly carried her team to victory, and will surely be a force to be reckoned with in game two. MVP candidate Breanna Stewart discussed the challenge that is guarding Delle Donne.
“Elena is really tough to guard. I think all three (Stewart, Jewell Loyd, and Gabby Williams) talked about it after the game, she hit some really tough shots. That’s the goal; try to make things difficult, try to make her facilitate. She rose to the occasion; we see her again on Sunday and we just gotta be prepared…everyone is stepping up to be the best in these moments,” Stewart said.
Seattle shooting guard Jewell Loyd, nicknamed the Gold Mamba, had a rough game until the final period. Loyd missed all five of her shots from the field through 30 minutes. Loyd, who has had multiple clutch moments in the last few seasons let alone her career, put her head down and went to work. Her 12 points in the fourth quarter kept the Storm in the game and kept pace with the points put up by Elena Delle Donne. The Gold Mamba was able to forget her early struggles, and forge another clutch moment in Storm basketball. Storm head coach Noelle Quinn reflected on her shooting guard’s performance.
“In the first half, she didn’t hit a bucket. I’m very proud of her, because it shows a lot of growth. Especially having been here with her, as her teammate, knowing that she has been in these playoff situations. Maybe she hasn’t pushed through before, but she pushed through today in a big way. It wasn’t how she started, but how she finished,” Quinn reflected.
The Storm saw great performances all over the board, including an early explosion of energy by forward Gabby Williams. The athletic Williams was able to pester Washington early, fighting for rebounds, attacking the rim, and swatting shots. Veteran center Tina Charles was aggressive in the paint and got a vital rebound with 48 seconds left to set up a Loyd jumper that gave Seattle a lead they wouldn’t lose the rest of the game. The tools are all there for the Storm, but they must execute properly to advance against a tough matchup in the Mystics.
Game two of the first-round matchup is Sunday, August 21st at Climate Pledge Arena. Tipoff for the potential series clincher is at 1PM PST, as the Mystics will look to scrape out a victory and force the series to Washington DC for a game three. The matchup will be streamed on ESPN nationally. In order to combat the deep Mystics lineup headlined by Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud, Seattle will need strong performances yet again from Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, as well as a better performance from their bench in order to take the series.