Professional Basketball

Seattle Outlasts Washington To Take Series Lead; Mystics Face Elimination


The last time the WNBA champion was crowned after only three games in the Finals series was in 2014 when the Phoenix Mercury defeated the Chicago Sky three games to none. Since then, every series has gone to a decisive fifth game. After edging out the Washington Mystics 75-73 in front of 14,212 at KeyArena on Sunday, the Seattle Storm are now in a position to close out the series.

The Storm and Mystics traded buckets early and the Mystics held a 9-8 lead after guard Kristi Toliver scored on a floating banking jump shot with 6:38 remaining in the quarter.

Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart guards against Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud during Friday’s WNBA Finals Game 1 at KeyArena. Cloud was held to two points during Sunday’s Game 2. File photo by Chuckarelei/Sports Page Magazine

Seattle answered with a 19-5 run in the remainder of the quarter making Game 2 resembling Friday night’s Game 1 which the Storm dominated. Seattle forward Breanna Stewart scored 11 points and grabbed four rebounds as Seattle ended the quarter with a 25-16 lead. Washington hit on only 30.0 percent of their shots while Seattle hit 55.6 percent of theirs.

Unlike Friday night, Washington responded with a 10-0 run of their own in the second quarter and found themselves with a one point deficit when forward Elena Delle Donne hit two free throws after getting fouled by Storm center Natasha Howard. It was 31-30 in favor of Seattle with 4:49 remaining in the half.

The teams traded buckets once again. Delle Donne grabbed an offensive rebound on a missed jump shot by guard Ariel Atkins and scored on the put-back, with 1:27 remaining in the half, to give the Mystics their first lead, 36-35, since the first quarter.

The Mystics continued the momentum and finished the half with a 40-36 lead after outscoring Seattle 24-11 in the second quarter.

Seattle guard Jewell Loyd wasn’t satisfied with the closeness of the game. She scored six points as the Storm opened the third quarter on a 9-2 run and took a 45-42 lead with 7:26 left on the clock.

The Mystics hung tough and managed to take the lead on a Delle Donne floating jump shot with 4:42 on the clock, the culmination of a 6-2 Washington run.

Baskets and leads were exchanged before Washington was able to find a bit of separation, taking a 61-56 lead with 15.2 seconds left in the third quarter after Atkins hit two free throws after getting fouled by Seattle guard Sami Whitcomb.

In the ensuing possession, Seattle guard Jordin Canada missed on a jump shot that was rebounded by Howard, who touched in the layup with less than a second remaining in the frame to make it a 61-58 Washington advantage.

The fourth quarter belonged to the Storm. They began the final frame on a 10-2 run taking a five point lead on a three-pointer by guard Sue Bird. Seattle was up 68-63 with 6:53 left in the game.

The Mystics played from behind for the rest of the game but could never regain the lead. Every time they scored, the Storm scored. They cut the deficit to one point on three different occasions, the last coming with 35.9 the clock after a Toliver jumper made the score 74-73.

With 6.9 seconds left, Seattle’s Howard and Mystics forward Tianna Hawkins got tied up on a loose ball and were forced into a jump ball situation. Seattle’s Loyd came up with the tip.

Storm forward Alysha Clark converted one of two free throws after getting fouled with 1.8 seconds left. On the final possession, Mystics forward Ariel Atkins attempted a cross-court three-pointer which barely missed as time expired.

After seven ties and six lead changes, the Seattle Storm held on for a 75-73 win and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

“Well, you knew Washington would respond after Game 1, and that second quarter was an example of how good they were,” said Seattle head coach Dan Hughes. “What I was pleased with was that we realized at halftime that we’ve got to kind of back out and reestablish some things. It’s going to be that – you’ve got two great teams going against each other.”

Mystics head coach Mike Thibault was not happy with the outcome.

“Breanna Stewart shot 14 free throws and Elena Delle Donne shot three, so that’s my opening statement,” he said.

The Mystics shot 15-for-17 from the line compared to Seattle’s 17-for-26 free throw shooting. Seattle had 15 turnovers to Washington’s seven.

Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne (left) and Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart (right) led their respective teams in scoring during Sunday’s WNBA Finals Game 2 at KeyArena. Stewart led all scorers with 25 and Delle Donne led the Mystics with 17. File photo by Chuckarelei/Sports Page Magazine

Seattle was led by 25 points from Stewart; 13 points, four rebounds and four assists from Loyd; and Howard led all rebounders with 13. The Storm shot 41.9 percent in field goal shooting during the game.

“You know, right from the jump, I just wanted to be really aggressive. You knew that this was Game 2 and that they were going to come out like a better DC team than we saw in Game 1,” said Stewart. “I was able to get to the free-throw line. I would have loved to have made those last two at the end, but the majority of the game, just being aggressive, assertive, and doing the plays to win the game.”

Washington was led by 17 points and four rebounds by Delle Donne; 15 points, four rebounds and three assists by Toliver; and Atkins pitched in for 15 points and three assists. The Mystics shot 40.8 percent from the field but were 0-for-16 in three-point attempts.

“Oh, shoot. I didn’t know we were 0-for-16. That’s a huge factor in the game, too. As a three-point shooting team, we need some of those to go in, and we’re going home, we feel really good,

we feel really positive,” said Toliver. “We’re going to be better. We were better from the day before. We’re going to be better when we get home, and we’re going to knock down shots.”

On the final possession which led to the tie up between Howard and Hawkins, Thibault explained that Seattle had a foul to give and were trying to foul Toliver, but the officials didn’t make the call properly.

“Well, on the last play when Kristi [Toliver] had the ball, they had a foul to give. They tried to take the foul. Sue Bird took the foul and the officials didn’t understand that Seattle was actually trying to take a foul, and then the ball gets knocked loose on the floor,” said Thibault. “But we knew that they were going to take a foul. We had drawn up two plays at the timeout, and they took the foul, and it wasn’t called.”

Hughes disagreed with Thibault.

I didn’t see a foul. I mean, if anything, I thought we had a timeout called because I thought we had possession of that. That’s more what’s in my head there,” said Hughes. “But you know, that’s the nature of when it’s this competitive. I have no question that there’s plays both teams can look at and say, ‘Boy, I wish this would have gone this way here.’ That’s just the nature of what we’re doing. But from my vantage point, I didn’t see it.”

Toliver had some choice words about the missed call by the officiating crew.

“Yeah, I mean, I got fouled going baseline. I think it was pretty blatant, it was pretty obvious. Sue [Bird] is smart. She knows they have one foul to give. They wanted to foul before I could be in a shooting motion,” said Toliver. “I wish the officials had a little more basketball IQ like Sue does because that would have been the play instead of a jump ball, and then we get in a scramble situation, try to foul again, somebody is in the way, I can’t go foul the ball handler and the clock goes down. That’s pretty much what happened.”

Now the series reverts to Washington with the Mystics facing elimination. Game 3 will be held at EagleBank Arena on the campus of George Mason University beginning at 7 p.m. CT on Wednesday.



Recommended for you