Bolstered by Sue Bird’s return, a record-setting three-point performance and a dominant defensive effort, the Storm rolled to its sixth straight win, a 100-63 victory over the short-handed Atlanta Dream on Wednesday night at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
“It’s difficult to blow some teams out in this league,” coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “It’s a rare occurrence. We got our running game going and we were shooting the ball extremely well from 3. The defense was tough. We got some separation and we were able to finish it up with our bench.
“We’ve been wanting to play a 40-minute game. We felt like we’ve played in spurts and had some lulls in previous games. I didn’t feel that tonight. It felt like we were consistent throughout.”
On a night when WNBA MVP candidate Breanna Stewart finished with a season-low seven points on 1-for-5 shooting, the Storm had more than enough firepower for its most lopsided win of the season and its first 100-point outing since July 31, 2018.
“It speaks to our depth for sure and our experience,” backup guard Sami Whitcomb said during a postgame Zoom call. “Stewie is big for us when we need her to be big for us. I think she’s happy when everyone else is playing well … it doesn’t bother her.
“For her, it was probably nice to just be able to play out there and have a little bit of a pressure release.”
Alysha Clark, who has scored in double figures in six straight games, set the pace early while peppering the Dream in the paint with short jumpers and tallying 14 of her 16 points in the first half when the Storm took a 47-28 lead at the break.
Then Jewell Loyd, who finished with 20 points and four three-pointers, took over and exploded for 11 points in the third when Seattle essentially put the game away and went up 73-46 heading into the fourth.
The Storm starters cheered from the sideline in the final frame as Whitcomb put on a show while draining 5 of 7 three-pointers. She finished with a career-high tying six three-pointers and 20 points, two shy of her personal best.
“Sami is one of the best shooters, one of the best snipers to be in our league,” Clark said. “When she gets going, she’s hard to stop.”
With Whitcomb’s late barrage, the Storm converted 18 of 30 three-pointers, which is the most threes in franchise history and tied the WNBA record for 3-pointers in a game.
“I don’t think we’ve been shooting terribly, but we definitely haven’t shot this well,” Whitcomb said noting the Storm entered the game second in the WNBA with a 38.5 three-point field goal percentage. “A lot of that goes to we were generous with the ball, sharing the ball and moving it.
“When you see a couple go down early, that makes the whole team kind of feel good. When we get that 3-ball going, it makes us very dangerous.”
The Storm (8-1) finished with a season-high 31 assists – including 10 from backup point guard Jordin Canada – on 35 baskets while shooting 56.5 percent from the field.
Bird, who suffered a bruised left knee and hadn’t played in nearly two weeks, finished with a season-high seven assists and nine points, including three three-pointers in 21 minutes.
“She was the missing piece,” Clark said. “Our team is complete again. She’s our floor general. She’s our floor leader. Just to have her out there with us was just a boost in itself.”
Six days ago, Seattle built a big early lead against Atlanta, but had difficulty putting away the Dream (2-7) due to the exploits of rookie point guard Chennedy Charter, who finished with 35 points in the 93-92 Storm victory.
However, Carter missed Wednesday’s game because of an ankle injury and the Dream tallied season lows in points and shooting percentage (36.5 percent).
In last week’s loss to Seattle, Atlanta went 20 for 20 on free throws. On Wednesday, the Dream was 1 for 1 at the line, which tied for the fewest all-time free throw attempts for a Storm opponent.
“Against a team this good we needed to make enough shots to continue to make it competitive,” Dream coach Nicki Collen. “Obviously they made everything they took but in this league, when you get in a game that you’re up 20 or 25 points and the pressure’s off –– all of a sudden it’s a playground out there.”
Betnijah Laney scored 17 points and Blake Dietrick, who played with the Storm last season, added 10 for Atlanta, which lost its sixth straight game and suffered its most lopsided defeat in franchise history.
“It felt like we were building to this,” Whitcomb said. “We had games where offensively we clicked or defensively we clicked. Or for a half we had things going, but we just couldn’t put a full game going, particularly we had some third-quarter lulls.
“It was really nice to come out from the most part a solid 40 minutes from the starters to the bench. … Getting a fresh Sue back and a healthy Sue back helps. Being able to rotate and keep people fresh is really key right now.”
Seattle, which is in the middle of a 10-games-in-19-days stretch, plays Dallas (3-6) 5 p.m. PT Friday.