EVERETT — What happens when a three-point shooting team can no longer shoot threes?
Well, you get a disjointed performance much like the Storm’s 85-75 come-from-behind victory Thursday night against New York at the Angel of the Winds Arena.
To borrow a baseball reference, Seattle lost control of its fastball and needed to rely on its secondary pitch to capture a much-needed victory that halted a three-game losing streak.
Normally, the Storm overwhelms opponents with a bevy of three-pointers, but this time Seattle connected on just 2 of 14 shots behind the arc while the Liberty canned 11 of 23.
However, the Storm had Breanna Stewart, who scored a game-high 33 points, and the Liberty did not.
“She willed herself to score and defend,” coach Noelle Quinn said. “From the tip, she was getting bumped and pushed. I thought she fought through the physicality and was physical back. She shoots only two threes and gets 33 points. Understanding that the next level of what she can do in the paint shows that when we’re not shooting the three, we can score in other ways.
“Just her will to get us there, it was very fun to watch that. It was much needed.”
Stewart revived her WNBA MVP candidacy with a workmanlike outing in which she eschewed three-pointers and repeatedly attacked the rim for layups and off-balance jumpers.
The 6-foot-4 forward exploited a matchup in the post against former teammate Natasha Howard while connecting on 12 of 22 shots and 9 of 11 free throws. Stewart also finished with eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks in 38 minutes.
“I was just … trying to get to the basket,” Stewart said. “That’s what we were all doing because we knew that they’re not going to be matched up in a way that they want.”
It was the third highest scoring outing of the season for Stewart, who also has tallied 36 and 35 points.
After Seattle’s 107-75 loss to Chicago last Friday, Stewart was dismayed by the team’s 3 of 17 three-point shooting and said she would be surprised if a team ever won a game while shooting 17% or fewer behind the arc.
Against New York, Seattle shot 14.3% and won.
“We’re defying the odds, that’s for sure,” said Stewart, who is 6 of 32 behind the arc in the past seven games. “We had the mentality before the game that we really wanted to get the ball into the paint. We knew that they were last in defensive paint protection and also knew that they fouled.”
Mercedes Russell pounded New York for 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 18 minutes.
The Liberty went with a small lineup. Quinn moved Stewart to the post, and Seattle used screens to create mismatches against guards on the inside.
“It was a counter to what New York was doing,” Quinn said. “Haven’t seen that lineup much, but maybe it’s something that we can go to when other teams are small.”
Seattle, which trailed 45-40 at halftime, fell behind 64-54 with 1:49 left in the third quarter when momentum shifted.
The Storm used a 21-4 run to take a control of the game, including four straight baskets from Stewart to go up 75-68 with 3:18 remaining.
Seattle outscored New York 22-11 in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to Jewell Loyd, who held Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu scoreless in the period.
“In basketball, there’s so many little things that you can do throughout the game to help,” said Loyd, who finished with eight points on 3-for-12 shooting. “My shot hasn’t been falling. That’s fine. I knew I could affect the game on the defensive end.”
When asked about her defensive performance against Ionescu, Loyd said: “I didn’t want her to score. … Our whole team was just aware of what we were trying to do. It wasn’t always perfectly executed. … But turning up the defensive pressure created some momentum and put them on their heels a little bit and got us going.”
Ionescu scored 20 points, Rebecca Allen 17 and Howard 15 for the Liberty, which lost its sixth straight game and fell to 11-18.
Meanwhile, Seattle (19-10) retained its half-game lead over the Minnesota Lynx for third place in the WNBA standings.
“We’re in a great place,” Stewart said. “We have three games left over two-plus weeks. We have a lot of time to rest, recover and practice, and then go out and do what we’re supposed to do. If we have to play high minutes, then that’s what we’ll do because we need these wins.”
- Storm backup point guard Jordin Canada missed her first game of the season with a right knee injury. Coach Noelle Quinn was uncertain when she would return.
- During a pregame ceremony, New York Liberty’s Natasha Howard and Sami Whitcomb received the 2020 WNBA championship rings after helping the Storm to a league title last year.