Fans were treated to a show inside Alaska Airlines Arena on Friday night.
There was also a basketball game.
We’ll get back to that. But first, you need to know what happened at the end of the first quarter of the Storm’s 95-81 victory over the Dallas Wings — when the crowd sprung to its feet and a pink-haired patriot strolled smiling out of the tunnel; when she paused on the midcourt stripe and posed for pictures with her girlfriend, Storm guard Sue Bird, and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan; when Durkan proudly sported a blue T-shirt that read, “Rapinoe Bird 2020.”
This was most certainly not the highlight of Megan Rapinoe’s week. But still, the dominant and occasionally divisive star of the U.S. women’s national soccer team — who earned the Golden Ball as the best player in the 2019 Women’s World Cup — seemed to enjoy it. She even uncorked her signature pose, lifting both arms in the air at midcourt as she basked in the downpour of adoring decibels.
Then the two-time World Cup champion stepped out of the spotlight and sat next to another noteworthy Seattle athlete — injured Storm forward Breanna Stewart. Inevitably, the cameras found Stewart and the 6-foot-4 Storm standout — who is sitting out the season with a torn Achilles — stood and waved to the crowd, which chanted “M-V-P” as Rapinoe clapped enthusiastically in the background.
There was no shortage of greatness to be found inside the arena.
And, yes, some of it might have rubbed off on the Storm.
That would explain Seattle’s first quarter, in which a team that had lost three consecutive games at home shot 75 percent from the field and 80 percent from beyond the arc. It would explain how former University of Washington guard Sami Whitcomb — who entered the game shooting 28.8 percent from distance — connected on her first three three-pointers, lifting a finger to the sky after each successive make.
It would explain how the Storm (9-8) led 33-13 after the first quarter and coasted the rest of the way.
Or maybe it’s more telling the dreadful Wings just fell to 0-7 away from home.
Or maybe the Storm was just ready to make a statement.
“It was a little bit of a statement,” Seattle coach Dan Hughes confirmed. “We lost a couple close (games), and the last game just didn’t go well for us. I was anxious as a coach to see how they’d respond. They responded. That’s what you saw.”
Regardless of the reason, Seattle’s statistics sing. Most notably, second-year point guard Jordin Canada recorded her first career double-double, racking up 14 points, 12 assists and five steals with zero turnovers. It was a stat line so rare it spurred an immediate double take.
“Twelve assists and zero turnovers? I’ve looked at I don’t know how many of these through the years,” Hughes said, motioning to the stat sheet, “and I don’t know if I’ve seen that number.”
Added Canada: “I’ve been put in a position this season to learn quick and improve my game. Last season I was kind of timid, hesitant, didn’t know what to expect. But now, being in my second year, I kind of got the hang of it. My confidence is coming back. I’m being able to play the game that I play and not worry about the results and just focusing on the progress and the process.”
On Friday, the progress was evident, as was the production — and not just for Canada. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led the way with 18 points and four three-pointers off the bench. Newly announced all-star Natasha Howard contributed 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. Center Mercedes Russell added 13 points and eight rebounds, landing in double figures for the fourth time in the last five games. Whitcomb poured in 12 points and four three-pointers.
“We’ve got shooters,” Canada said of Whitcomb and Mosqueda-Lewis’ efforts. “It brings energy to our team. It gives us that spark. We’ve just got to keep feeding it to them when they’re hot. We’ve got to look for them in transition or in half-court sets. When they’re knocking down shots, it’s hard to stop us.”
The Storm couldn’t be consistently stopped Friday. As a team, they shot 54.8% from the field and 60.9% (14-23) from beyond the arc. They also nabbed a whopping 14 steals.
Despite the celebrity cameos, the Storm also had stars on the court.