The Storm’s Big Three exited Tuesday’s exhibition opener with a little more than three minutes and Seattle trailing Phoenix by a point. But Jordin Canada led the Storm to a comeback win in the first of four games — two preseason and two regular-season — against the Mercury.
After slipping on her No. 21 highlight-yellow jersey and walking onto the KeyArena court for the first time with the Storm, Jordin Canada fully understood that she fulfilled a lifelong dream.
“It just felt surreal because I finally realized that I’m here,” said the former UCLA star who was taken No. 5 overall by the Storm in the 2018 WNBA draft. “It kind of felt like a second home because I played here multiple times in the Pac-12 tournament so I was kind of familiar with the court.
“Going out there for the first time — even though it was preseason — I had a little bit of nerves, but once I got a couple of possessions on the defensive and offensive end, I felt more comfortable. … I just tried to stick to my strengths and tried to impact the game as much as possible.”
If Seattle’s 73-69 exhibition opening win over Phoenix on Tuesday afternoon in front of a sparse crowd of 3,502 is any indication, the Storm may have discovered a future star in Canada, who shared game-high scoring honors with 15 points and tormented the Mercury with five steals.
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At the very least, Canada gives Seattle a speedy reserve off the bench who is capable of providing an electric alternative at point guard while leading the second unit. She also had highlight moments playing in a three-guard lineup with starters Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart and Crystal Langhorne.
“What I bring to the table is my transition offense and my quickness,” Canada said. “Trying to push the tempo a little bit more. Having Stewie and Jewell will create opportunities for me and opportunities for them to score.”
The Storm’s Big Three — Stewart, Loyd and Bird — had few problems offensively against a short-handed Phoenix team playing without four starters.
Stewart finished with 15 points and five rebounds while Loyd had 15 points and Bird added 10 points, four steals and three assists.
The Seattle stars, who were on a minutes restriction, left the game with 3:03 remaining and trailing 65-64.
“We didn’t practice in a way to put them in the best situation to win this game,” first-year Storm coach Dan Hughes said. “We practiced in a way to get better.
“It’s not the smartest coaching move to put Stewie on the bench with three minutes to go in a close game that you want to win. … But that said, I thought the last three minutes we played to win.”
Rookie forward Teana Muldrow canned a three-pointer to put the Storm ahead 67-65. After Phoenix tied it on the ensuing possession, Canada scored the final six points for Seattle on free throws. She was 7 for 7 at the line.
“It was great to see a couple of the young ones make a couple of plays down the stretch,” Hughes said. “I know some things about the vets, but to see young ones do that, that’s always a learning experience for me.”
DeWanna Bonner scored a team-high 13 points for Phoenix, which played without Diana Taurasi and Sancho Lyttle who remained on the bench. The Mercury was also missing starters Brittney Griner, Camille Little and three other players who are playing overseas.
Seattle plays Phoenix at 7 p.m. Saturday in their exhibition finale. The teams also play two games to start the regular season.
“It’s not the most ideal schedule, that’s for sure,” Stewart said. “We’re going to be pretty well scouted on each other that’s for sure.
“From this game to Saturday’s game, we’re going to have more people back (and) they’re going to have more people back. By games three and four, it’s going to be a grind.”