EVERETT, Wash. — On an evening when Seattle Storm MVP candidate Natasha Howard was held to 2 factors and WNBA 3-point proportion chief Alysha Clark made just one triple, Seattle turned to the backcourt for scoring punch in Wednesday’s opening-round playoff matchup in opposition to the Minnesota Lynx. Jordin Canada and Jewell Loyd delivered, combining for 48 factors because the Storm gained a matchup of the previous two WNBA champions 84-74 to advance to the second spherical.
“We acquired nice guard play,” Storm coach Dan Hughes mentioned. “You have to actually just like the guard play that we had in the present day.”
When the Storm started coaching camp in Could, Canada was anticipated to again up veteran All-Star Sue Chook. That modified when the workforce discovered days earlier than the beginning of the season that Chook would endure surgical procedure that finally ended her season. Thrust into the beginning function, Canada rode out ups and downs to emerge as contender for the league’s most improved participant award.
“What she did this 12 months enabled Seattle to get by means of their tough conditions in dropping gamers, an incredible participant like Sue Chook,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve mentioned. “For Jordin to take over the workforce and play each ends as effectively at as she has … she’s simply grown by means of the season. Her trajectory is upward.”
All through the season, Seattle has been at its finest when Canada has been a scoring menace. The Storm went 9-2 throughout the common season when Canada scored in double figures. She got here out aggressively Wednesday, flattening a uncommon 3-pointer within the opening minute of the sport — her first since July 17, additionally in opposition to the Lynx — and by no means regarded again. Canada’s 26 factors have been a profession excessive, and in keeping with ESPN Stats & Info analysis she set season highs for scoring in a half in each the primary and second halves.
It has been a making an attempt season for Loyd, who figured to step ahead within the absence of Chook and 2018 WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart. The Storm’s third All-Star final season struggled with scoring effectivity early within the marketing campaign, then suffered a sprain of and bone bruise to her proper ankle in late June that sidelined her for almost a month. A shadow of her All-Star self upon her return, Loyd returned to the bench for 4 video games in August.
Since late final month, nonetheless, Loyd has been on hearth past the arc because the Storm completed robust to safe the No. 6 seed and home-court benefit in opposition to the Lynx. She made 13 of 20 3-point makes an attempt during the last 5 video games of the common season, then carried that over by flattening all three of her first-quarter 3s on Wednesday. Loyd completed with 22 factors, her first time scoring 20-plus because the damage.
“We’d like her to be this,” mentioned Hughes, whose guard duo outscored their Lynx counterparts 48-1. “It is her time of 12 months. She seems able to me. She’s needed to undergo an damage after which come again from it, and there is a lot of examples within the league the place that is arduous. She’s actually, actually pivotal to us and he or she confirmed that in the present day together with her play — particularly popping out of the gate.”
Extra than simply her scoring, Loyd contributed essential performs that helped Seattle preserve Minnesota — which by no means led after the primary two minutes of the sport — at bay. Within the second quarter, she battled by means of a number of Lynx opponents to safe an offensive rebound that led to a visit to the free throw line, then drew an offensive foul on Damiris Dantas. And within the fourth quarter, Loyd dove to tie up Dantas, although the Lynx ahead gained the following leap ball. The Storm’s guards managed the sport on the defensive finish of the courtroom, serving to take Minnesota out of its offense. The Lynx, the league’s most turnover-prone workforce throughout the common season, dedicated 18 of them on this recreation. And Minnesota’s backcourt of All-Star Odyssey Sims and Danielle Robinson may get nothing going as scorers. Neither made a area aim in solely 5 makes an attempt, with a Sims free throw accounting for his or her solely contributions within the factors column.
“We knew coming in that Odyssey Sims was going to be an incredible a part of their workforce,” Canada mentioned, “and so we talked about it in practices — how we have been going to play her, being aggressive. I believe we did an incredible job of that tonight, irrespective of if it was me, AC [Alysha Clark] or Jewell. All of us caught to the sport plan and tried to get her outdoors her consolation zone and frustrate her as a lot as attainable.”
Regardless of shutting down the backcourt, the Storm could not shake the Lynx for a lot of the sport. When Minnesota may get the ball inside, the frontcourt of Napheesa Collier, Dantas and Sylvia Fowles proved robust to cease. Each Collier, in her playoff debut (19 factors, 10 rebounds), and Fowles (14 factors, 11 rebounds) posted double-doubles. Collier’s robust second half helped the Lynx pull to inside three early within the fourth quarter, a surge that did not shock the Storm.
“Sue talked about it at halftime within the locker room,” Canada mentioned. “Minnesota’s a veteran workforce, they have been right here earlier than. They’ll go on a run, and once they go on a run we will have to remain poised and preserve our composure.”
With Canada and Loyd nonetheless resting, reserve guards Shavonte Zellous and Sami Whitcomb offered key scores early within the fourth quarter to assist the Storm push the lead again to double digits. Then Seattle’s guards took again over late, with Canada and Loyd combining for 12 of the workforce’s ultimate 13 factors to cap a dominant efficiency.