Seattle, WA – In what feels like a microcosm of the entire 2023 season, the Seattle Storm came up just short in the season finale to the Los Angeles Sparks. Similar to most of their defeats in a year that sees them secure a lottery pick, Seattle put up a strong fight in this game but couldn’t do enough to put distance between themselves and their opponent, and Los Angeles used that to power a fourth quarter comeback. Though both teams were already eliminated from the WNBA playoffs days before tipping this game off, the Sparks and Storm put on a physical, fast contest in front of a strong Sunday crowd at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle.
Jewell Loyd came out of the gates hot, scoring 15 of her 17 points as Seattle responded to the Los Angeles quick four-point start with a big run of their own, powered largely by the Gold Mamba. The Storm’s secondary scoring threat, Ezi Magbegor, chipped in on both ends of the court as her six points in the first quarter were second best on the team and her two blocks only helped as Seattle poured on for a 30-point effort in the first ten-minutes of the game. The shooting success continued in the second quarter for the Storm, as Kia Nurse (who has been finding her shoot down the stretch of this season) led Seattle with a quarter-high 12 points to help them carry a nine-point lead into the half. The Storm largely used Nurse’s output to buoy themselves, as they couldn’t do much outside of her shooting ability, and that forecast some struggles to come later in the game.
““That wasn’t a goal of mine at all coming into the season. Even hearing people talking about it, it wasn’t a goal of mine. It just kind of happened, actually. I think it’s pretty cool knowing that I missed what – two games? – and I was still able to do it, so that’s pretty cool,” Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm shooting guard, on breaking the WNBA single season scoring record.
While the third quarter itself could’ve been better, as the Sparks outscored the Storm for a second straight frame, it’s that fourth final quarter where Seattle struggled once again. Issues that were budding from the first half became prevalent in the second, as turnovers (eight of them in the third turned into ten more points for Los Angeles) quickly made the second half frustrating for the Storm. The inability to protect the basketball and struggles in the paint set the stage for what was a frustrating fourth quarter. Seattle only scored eleven points on a poor shooting percentage, and they failed to score the tying basket with just ticks left on the clock. Ezi Magbegor had a free drive to the basket as time expired, but her pull up jumper hit the front of the rim to top off the fourth quarter comeback for Los Angeles and put a sour ending on what had generally been a strong day for the Storm.
“Turnovers. I think we had eight or nine in the third, and timely ones in the fourth. Our offense stalled out, we got decent but not great looks and then just defensively, they were just putting pressure at the rim on us… They just kicked up their physicality and we weren’t very sharp offensively,” Noelle Quinn, Seattle Storm head coach, on what went wrong for her team.
Following the tough loss to the Sparks, Seattle has wrapped up the 2023 season with highs and lows, but ultimately ending in a lottery pick. Since the Chicago Sky clinched a playoff berth, the Storm now have the fourth best odds at the top pick in the upcoming draft, but already have a positive look at the offseason considering the signing of Jewell Loyd to that two-year extension. Exit interviews are tomorrow, and then it’s into the offseason for Seattle. With Loyd locked up and a solid core in place, the Storm have free agency and the draft to add a point guard, a proven star next to Jewell, and some physicality inside. With the team’s training facility opening early next year and the league’s top scorer on the roster, Seattle has a few obvious pro’s when it comes to attracting free agents.