The Storm’s bench averages 20.2 points per game, but it needs to do more to spell the starters, who are logging big minutes.
Sami Whitcomb made a promise to herself on that remarkable night in May when she came off the bench and scored 22 points — all in the second half — to lead the Storm to an improbable comeback win over the New York Liberty.
“I don’t want this to be the only thing this season that people remember me for,” the 28-year-old rookie shooting guard said. “I have to improve on this (performance) not just for me, but to help this team.”
Two months later, Whitcomb’s brilliant scoring display serves as reminder as to what the Storm (9-12) has missed during a season that’s teetering on the brink.
Dallas @ Seattle, 7 p.m., JOEtv
“We’re not getting production off the bench,” coach Jenny Boucek said bluntly. “And we need it.”
It really is an understatement and a problem that’s plagued the Storm for the past two seasons.
Last year, Seattle’s bench averaged just 18.9 points and accounted for 23.4 percent of the scoring.
Led by Whitcomb, who averages 5.0 points, the Storm’s seven reserves tally 20.2 points per game in 2017, which represents 25 percent of the scoring.
“We need to make sure if it is limited minutes that we’re being more productive in those and we’re making sure that we are contributing and we’re staying ready,” said Whitcomb.
Since Whitcomb torpedoed the Liberty with six three-pointers, Storm reserves have scored in double digits just three times.
And three times, Seattle’s bench accounted for three or fewer points like it did in its last outing — a 68-60 defeat at Los Angeles — when the reserves combined for just two points.
Oddly enough, Seattle’s bench was scoreless during an 81-69 win against the Sparks two weeks ago.
The paltry production from the bench has made the Storm top heavy in terms of the offensive pecking order, overly reliant on its trio of stars (Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd) and at times easy to defend.
“We’re at our best when we’re constantly moving the ball and creating shots for everybody,” Stewart said last week during the All-Star break.
The second-year forward leads Seattle with a 19.9 scoring average that ranks fifth in the WNBA. However, she’s willing to sacrifice some points for wins.
“It can’t be just me and Jewell or Sue and Lang,” Stewart said. “It’s a short season, but sometimes you need those good surprises where you’re like ‘Where did that come from?’ ”
Aside from Whitcomb, forwards Ramu Tokashiki and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis are the only Storm reserves who have scored at least 10 points in a game this season.
In many ways, Seattle’s bench crumbled and has never recovered from when Mosqueda-Lewis tore cartilage in her right knee on May 26 against New York.
“Me being out kind of screwed up the rotation a little bit just because we don’t have many big guards,” said the third-year veteran, who underwent a microscopic surgery and missed 12 games. “It’s tough when anybody gets injured or when anybody is out. You just have to adjust.”
Since her return, Mosqueda-Lewis, who averages 4.4 points, has played in three games and remained on the bench in Seattle’s last outing.
“My knee is feeling good,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “I’m good. I’m just trying to get back into the rotation and with the flow of things. It’s a little hard because we don’t have as many practices, but it’s getting there.”
Boucek countered: “She hasn’t gotten her pop back for whatever reason. So she’s not caught up with the speed of the game yet.”
Mosqueda-Lewis and Boucek are aligned on the Storm’s priorities heading into Friday’s 7 p.m. game against Dallas (11-12) at KeyArena.
“There needs to be more from our bench,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “We got to make sure that when we come in, we contribute something or at least sustain what we have.
In a 12-team WNBA comprised of 60 starters, each of the Storm’s starters rank among the league’s top 33 players in minutes.
Stewart is seventh while averaging 32.6 minutes followed by Loyd (31.3, 13th), Bird (30.3, 18th), Alysha Clark (28.5, 32nd) and Crystal Langhorne (28.4, 33rd).
“That’s on us to help out the starters as much as we can,” Mosqueda-Lewis said. “We don’t want them to stay out there playing 30-plus minutes a game because we have a bench that’s talented enough where we shouldn’t have to play like that.
“We shouldn’t have to rely on them so much where they feel like they have to carry that big of a load.”