Loyd, who continued her pursuit for her first all-WNBA recognition and potentially a late inclusion on the USA Olympic team heading to the Rio Games, scored a career-high (32) points on 12-of-18 shooting.
Jewell Loyd started the play that had KeyArena buzzing and created the highlight that quickly went viral on social media.
Early in the fourth quarter of the Storm’s 95-81 win over Phoenix on Friday night, she led a 2-on-1 fast break alongside rookie star Breanna Stewart.
Loyd lofted a pass over the Mercury’s Penny Taylor toward the rim, but unexpectedly Stewart tapped it with two hands like a volleyball back to Loyd.
The quick-thinking Loyd rose and tipped the ball over a late-arriving defender for a layup that sent the crowd of 6,510 into a frenzy.
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“That was the first time we ever did anything like that,” Loyd said. “We’ve never practiced that or anything. We just feed off of each other.
“She’s super athletic and she knows I can get up there as well. We kind of play off of each other and have really good chemistry. We’re just trying to get in a good rhythm. The crazy thing is we’re still growing and figuring each other out.”
Certainly, Loyd and the Storm have figured out Phoenix — a team that gave them fits the past two seasons. Seattle snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Mercury last month thanks to Loyd, who scored 30 points in the game at Phoenix.
In Friday’s rematch, she was even better than before.
Loyd shared the court with four Team USA Olympians and a handful of players with more than two dozen WNBA All-Star appearances, but she was clearly the best player on the floor — again.
The second-year Storm guard, who continued her pursuit for her first All-WNBA recognition and potentially a late inclusion on the USA Olympic team heading to the Rio Games, scored a career-high 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting with four three-pointers.
“As a pro this was one of my best games,” said the 22-year-old Loyd, who once scored 50 points in a high-school game and 42 at Notre Dame. “It was fun. It was at home. I felt good and we got the win.”
Paired against Diana Taurasi, the 2009 MVP and one of the league’s premier players, Loyd had nine rebounds, three assists and two steals in 34 minutes. Taurasi finished with eight points.
“It’s like the Michael Jordan and Kobe (Bryant) matchup in my eyes,” Loyd said. “I really dial in when I play Taurasi and try to make it difficult for her. She’s my mentor and I look up to her.”
The Storm also received a virtuoso performance from Stewart, who nearly notched her first triple-double. The rookie star finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
Sue Bird added 14 points, six assists, four rebounds and four steals for Seattle (3-4), which snapped a two-game skid and scored its most points this season.
Meanwhile Jenna O’Hea, who started her second straight game, had 14 points and four three-pointers.
“It was a lot of fun,” coach Jenny Boucek said. “I was happy for the ladies. When they get going like that you can tell they were having a lot of fun.”
Despite surrendering four inches to 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner, Stewart held her own against the three-time WNBA All-Star. And Bird, at 5 feet 10, held off 6-4 DeWanna Bonner in the post.
Seattle outscored Phoenix 27-21 in the third quarter when it built a 16-point lead (72-56) and held on for its most lopsided win this season.