Despite the loss, Seattle head coach Jenny Boucek still had high praise for Storm's center and No. 1 draft pick, Breanna Stewart. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
BY RAY FLORIANI (@rfloriani)
New York City- On the heels of a road trip resulting in two wins in three tries, the New York Liberty came home to entertain the Seattle Storm. The visitors came in with the league’s top draft pick, Breanna Stewart, who needs no introduction. Making her professional debut at Madison Square Garden, Stewart led all scorers with 24 points, an outstanding performance, but in the end, the Liberty had enough and made the plays to salvage a 78-74 victory. The win puts New York at 13-6 while Seattle fell to 6-12.
At the half, the Liberty held a 39-33 advantage.
Possessions: Seattle 43, NY Liberty 42
Offensive efficiency: Seattle 77, NY Liberty 93
The Liberty defense is evident, holding Seattle to a low offensive metric. On the flip side, the Storm were able to make a few short runs to keep the home team from gaining separation. New York’s offense is not great, but more than adequate when the opposition’s offensive efficiency can’t crack 80.
The first four minutes of the second half saw the Liberty extend their lead to 11 points. New York outscored Seattle 16-11, hitting field goals. Three were from beyond the arc, all by Sugar Rodgers, showing an aptitude to use the screens and catch and shoot.
A few other thoughts and observations from courtside:
- Tina Charles is not just a low post threat. As noted here in the past, she can step out to 12-15 feet and can find an open teammate when doubled in the low or mid post.
- Seattle runs a lot of four-out offense, very much in vogue these days. The offense can actually utilize the skills of 6-4 Brianna Stewart to the maximum. The former UConn great naturally can play inside, while maintaining an excellent proficiency as a threat on the perimeter.
- There are times Stewart will grab a defensive rebound and bring the ball up court. Coach Jenny Boucek will also utilize her outstanding rookie to break defensive pressure.
- Tanisha Wright made a succession of big plays for the Liberty in that fourth quarter. In transition, Wright did not force the issue and made some good decisions.
- Seattle showed a lot of grit and determination. The Liberty enjoyed a double-digit lead to enter the final quarter. Five minutes later, they were in a one-possession contest.
- Another UConn product, Seattle’s Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, came alive offensively during the Storm’s fourth quarter run.
- The Liberty led by five with three minutes to go. You have the lead on your home floor in proverbial crunch time, championship teams and/or contenders close these out, especially in the comforts of home.
- On the last possession, Seattle was down three with 1.4 seconds to play, inbounding at half court. Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer elects not to guard the inbounder. It works, as the inbound pass is broken up and stolen by Sugar Rodgers.
- Sue Bird missed the second of two free throws that could have tied the score with 4.9 seconds to go. In all fairness, blame should not be put on Bird. Credit is deserved for the Liberty making the defensive play on Seattle’s last possession.
The numbers of note:
Possessions: Seattle 82, NY Liberty 81
Offensive efficiency: Seattle 90, NY Liberty 96
eFG%: Seattle 49, NY Liberty 47
Free Throw Rate: Seattle 19, NY Liberty 25
Offensive Rebound%: Seattle 14, NY Liberty 27
Turnover Rate: Seattle 14, NY Liberty 17
Leading scorers and EF:
Seattle: Breanna Stewart, 24 points, 46 EF
NY Liberty: Tina Charles, 18 points EF 31
Tanisha Wright, 18 points EF 27
What the Liberty did well: Avoid overtime. New York appeared to be running out of gas while Seattle was coming on strong. Forcing an extra session might have shifted the outcome in Seattle’s favor.
What Seattle did well: Refuse to go away. The Storm constantly came from behind, and in the final seconds, were in a position to get a nice road win.
NOTES: Interestingly, the Storm never led. The Liberty led by as many as 18 points. As noted, Seattle kept battling back. Stewart led all with 16 rebounds while Stokes paced the Liberty with 11. Wright had four boards, five assists and no turnovers in 30 minutes. Seattle shot 18-of-34 (41%) from two-point range while hitting 10-of-24 (41.7%) from downtown.
“We said switch everything (on the last possession), everytime they come off a pick, you switch and leave no one open. We got tired at the end. We had good shots, they didn’t go. As a coach, you sit and grind your teeth. The worst thing in professional basketball is a big early lead. I told them at halftime, nothing is easy. I told them after the game, nothing is easy. I talked to Tanisha before the game, said she might play extended minutes. She did what she had to do and made some big buckets. Resilience is a pretty big word for an athlete. Grit and heart is more applicable in the sports world, and we have that. Tina didn’t have her best game and Kiah (Stokes) and (Shavonte) Zellous missed some shots, but we got the win. We were all tired coming off a three-game road trip, but you just have to play through it.” - Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer
“Her rebounding surprised me coming into this league. She has long arms, can score and went to UConn, where they can cherry pick the very best players. Really impressed how she played against a defender like Kiah.” Laimbeer on Breanna Stewart
“She is fitting in very well with her teammates and they have adapted to her abilities. She has a good yet modest opinion of herself, and she just wants to eventually help bring us to a championship. She transcends the barriers of a position. She can play point, wing or post, all very well.” Seattle coach Jenny Boucek on Breanna Stewart
“She was great tonight. She hit a few outside shots and went to the basket. She plays with confidence as well. We have players in the league versatile and big like (Elena) Delle Donne, Candace Parker and Dewanna Bonner, so her versatility is something we have seen, but she is a tough defensive matchup.” Tina Charles on Breanna Stewart