The Storm head into the WNBA All-Star break on a high note following back-to-back impressive road performances to claim sole possession of third place in the league standings.
Thursday’s night’s 106-69 victory in Los Angeles capped a three-game, cross-country road trip that began Monday with an uninspiring loss in Atlanta.
However, Seattle’s 37-point win in front of 6,389 at Crypto.com Arena, which tied a franchise record for the largest margin of victory in a road game, came on the heels of a 22-point blowout victory at Indiana just 48 hours earlier.
During a stretch that included five games in the past nine days, Seattle (15-8) has won four games by at least 10 points.
“Looking to continue to finish out the first half of our season strong on the road and making sure we’re locked into everything and our schemes,” coach Noelle Quinn said during a teleconference interview before the game. “I want us to maintain our focus throughout this game and get some good momentum going into the break.”
The Storm were limited to just 10 players because Sue Bird, who is retiring after the season, missed what would have been her final game in LA to attend Thursday’s White House ceremony that included fiancé Megan Rapinoe, who was one of 17 recipients awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
“I’m never comfortable without Sue,” Quinn said. “I think it’s important to know that we have some game experience with it now. … Understanding we’ve done it before and having come comfort in that.”
The Storm, which lost 85-77 to Los Angeles in their previous matchup June 25 at Climate Pledge Arena, were also primed for an upset considering they were at the end of a long road trip and the impending long weekend.
“We all knew this was the last game before the break, and those games are sometimes really hard because you’re focused on what’s ahead instead of staying in the moment,” forward Breanna Stewart said. “But, 106 points is a lot of points.”
The short-handed Storm were more than a match for an injury-riddled Sparks team missing five players, including Kristi Toliver (calf), Chiney Ogwumike (knee), Chennedy Carter (knee), Brittney Sykes (health and safety protocols) and Rae Burrell (knee).
Leading 23-18 early in the second quarter, Seattle essentially put the game away with a 20-5 run over a five-minute span to go up 43-23 with 2:58 remaining in the first half.
During the decisive spurt, Jewell Loyd scored eight of her 16 points.
“I was just trying to make a good read,” said Loyd who was scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting in the first quarter. “I knew they were kind of overplaying me. I settled in a little bit. When we move the ball, a lot of things open up. I was able to get to my pullup a little bit and attack.”
Seattle led 51-32 at halftime and never allowed Los Angeles to get within 14 points the rest of the way.
Stewart, who finished with a game-high 23 points in 24 minutes, led the way during a historic offensive performance in which the Storm shot 64.6% — a team record and the sixth-best shooting performance in WNBA history.
“We knew we wanted to play in transition, and that really jump started everything else,” said Stewart, who connected on 9 of 15 shots, including three three-pointers. “When we’re confident, when we’re flowing and when we’re playing in a good rhythm, it seems like every shot is going to go in. … And tonight it did.”
Seattle sank 42 of 65 shots and had 32 assists.
Gabby Williams had 11 points, five assists and four rebounds, and Ezi Magbegor tallied a second consecutive double-double (10 points and 11 rebounds).
Tina Charles led the reserves with 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting, and Stephanie Talbot had 13 points off the bench.
Every Storm player finished with at least two field goals and an assist, which is the first time a WNBA team has done that in the 26-year history of the league.
Lexie Brown led Los Angeles (10-12) with 16 points.
“This break is perfect,” Stewart said. “Everybody needs a little bit of a reset and some time away to not think about basketball and not think about Seattle and all of those things. And then when we come back, we’re even hungrier to finish this stretch of regular-season games and make sure our chemistry is growing and be ready for the playoffs. We don’t want to peak too soon. We want make sure that we’re continuing to go up.”
Jewell Loyd will compete in the WNBA 3-Point Contest on Saturday in Chicago. It’s her third appearance (2021 and 2018) in the event. Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley, a three-time event winner, headlines a six-player field that includes five players ranked among top eight in the league in made threes. Loyd is fourth with 55 three-pointers.
Las Vegas Aces guard and former Washington Huskies standout Kelsey Plum tops the WNBA with 71 three-pointers followed by Dallas Lynx guard Arike Ogunbowale (67). Atlanta Dream rookie forward Rhyne Howard and Washington Mystics guard Ariel Atkins rank seventh and eighth with 50 and 49 three-pointers, respectively.
Plum, Ogunbowale, Howard and Atkins are first-time event participants.
The 3-Point Contest and WNBA Skills Challenge will be televised at noon PT Saturday.