WASHINGTON, D.C. – For long stretches Sunday afternoon, the Storm’s Big Three just didn’t have it offensively at Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Jewell Loyd, who entered the game averaging 30 points in her past three outings, missed a routine fastbreak layup, which was emblematic of her dismal 2-of-12 shooting performance.
Sue Bird was hardly better. She ranked seventh in the league in three-point shooting percentage, but watched several open perimeter shots rattle out of the rim.
And Breanna Stewart couldn’t get many shots to fall with regularity.
Still, the Storm overcame an uncharacteristic sloppy outing from its superstars thanks to a stellar performance from its supporting cast, which led the way to an 85-78 victory over the Washington Mystics.
“I thought it was a total team effort,” coach Noelle Quinn said. “Everyone who played scored. Everyone had an assist. Just really big minutes and contributions from our bench and second unit today. Just happy to get better today and leave this place with a win.”
Center Mercedes Russell finished with 14 points and eight rebounds while forward Katie Lou Samuelson added 10 points. Meanwhile, backup center Ezi Magbegor added 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting off the bench.
“You never know when your opportunity is going to come,” Quinn said. “When opportunity meets preparation, we all know what happens. That’s just the name of the game when you’re in this league. Everybody on every team in this league is a good basketball player, was a star at some point in their life. Now when you come to a level when you’re playing with other elite players, the moments will come.
“Today our Big Three wasn’t as efficient offensively, but we had some great contributions from Ezi and Steph and everyone else. That is the name of the game at this level to always remain steady. To always remain focused, engaged and sharp because when your time comes you want to execute and you want to be ready for that opportunity.”
Russell, Magbegor and Samuelson combined for 38 points while the Storm’s Big Three had 36. More importantly for Seattle, its reserves outscored Washington’s backups 25-12.
“It just goes to show the depth of our team, especially the bench,” said Stewart, who finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, five blocked shots and two steals. “Having 25 bench points is huge. Just knowing that when people aren’t having their best night, other people are stepping up.”
Russell has shown flashes of dominance all season while Magbegor and Samuelson have recently displayed signs of being able to make regular double-digit scoring contributions.
With Stewart out of the lineup for two games last week, Magbegor posted a career-high 21 points Monday against the Chicago Sky while Samuelson tallied a personal-best 15 on Wednesday versus the New York Liberty.
“I obviously started the season a little slow and coming back from the Olympics, I knew I needed to contribute more,” said Magbegor, who played with the Australian women’s basketball team at the Tokyo Olympics. “Probably my role at the Olympics gave me a little confidence coming back here.”
Magbegor and Samuelson led the second unit and helped the Storm recover from an early 11-2 deficit after missing eight of its first nine shots.
The Storm was down 21-18 after the first quarter and took control of the game in the second while outscoring the Mystics 25-12 to go ahead 43-33 at halftime. Samuelson had eight points in the period.
In the first half, Stewart, Loyd and Bird combined to connect on 6-of-20 shots while everyone else was 12 of 16.
“I don’t think we were flustered in the beginning when it was 11-2,” Stewart said. “We got a lot of good looks, but they just didn’t go in and continued to play through that. We had the bench come in and give us some different energy. Just continued to gut it out.
“Any time we play on the road it’s not easy. Any time we play anybody its not easy, but just making sure that we’re making big plays and we’re constantly continuing to play whether the ball goes in the basket or it doesn’t because we know after 40 minutes chances are we’re going to be on the better side of things if we continue to play hard.”
Stewart scored 11 points in the third quarter to give the Storm a 64-54 lead heading to the fourth and Seattle led by 12 early in the final period.
However, the Mystics went on a 20-7 run and took a 74-73 lead after Myisha Hines-Allen’s three-pointer with 3:32 left.
On the ensuing possession, Russell sank a pair of free throws to give Seattle the lead once again and start the Storm’s 12-4 run to close the game.
During the decisive spurt, Russell and Stephanie Talbot forced turnovers, which turned the momentum. Seattle connected on just 6 of 24 three-pointers, but Bird and Talbot were able to drill a couple of daggers behind the arc in the final three minutes.
The Storm (18-7) is 2-2 on its five-game road trip, which ends Tuesday at Minnesota.
“Getting wins on the road is kind of setting up what to expect in the postseason,” Quinn said. “Sometimes with this team it’s a matter of staying the course. Not getting too high and not getting too low, just staying even keel.
“We just needed to lock in a little bit more on what we needed to do. The first few minutes of the game, we were taking quick shots and not moving the ball. We’re learning. We’re growing. We’re trying to peak at the right time and just figuring out how to play with one another. Figuring out how to win on the road and pulling out difficult wins on the road is a sign of a very, very good team.”
Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne, who returned after nearly two years away while recovering from back surgeries, generated a palpable pregame buzz.
Before tipoff, Stewart chatted with the two-time WNBA MVP who received a slew of well-wishes and congratulations from several Seattle players during warmups.
“My message before the game was we understand Delle Donne is back and there’s a lot of excitement around that, but our focus is on ourselves and our schemes and our matchups and how to make her uncomfortable,” Quinn said. “How to take away their threes and how can we best attack the team.”
Delle Donne finished with 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting in 22½ minutes. Tina Charles led Washington (8-14) with 20 points while Natasha Cloud had 11 and Ariel Atkins 10.
- The Storm will visit President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden at the White House on Monday afternoon during a South Lawn ceremony to commemorate the team’s 2020 WNBA championship.