WNBA rewatch: Storm hold off Fever in home opener

Still without Sue Bird, Seattle tops Indiana in Breanna Stewart’s season debut

via AP

Breanna Stewart’s first game of the season didn’t get off to the best start. Not four minutes into it, she was on the bench with two fouls. She wasn’t the only big name in the KeyArena off to a slow start — Candice Dupree missed her first five shots and finished 3–13.

New head coach Pokey Chatman had the Fever running a whole bunch of high and side pick and rolls from the jump. And anybody can attack downhill when a lane opens up. There are levels to the pick and roll game that require craft, change of speed and patience. Watch Marissa Coleman reject the screen then probe the defense enough to draw help before finding Erlana Larkins:

Jenny Boucek got Stewart back in to start the 2nd. The 2nd year star got right to work curling for a jumper, earning a trip to the line and driving for a tough score through contact for an and one. Both teams had stabilized.

The entire league seems to be on notice with respect to Jewell Loyd’s outside shot. If she’s hitting from deep, she and the Storm will be tough to handle. She isn’t shy, either. She runs right around two screeners below (a baseline stagger) and drills one:

Seattle went a full 5:56 without scoring a point until this Loyd pull up in transition:

The Storm’s 23 turnovers hurt them in Saturday’s loss in LA. They didn’t do much better Sunday, finishing with 20. They did get to the free throw line a ton, and Indiana was never able to built a big lead. Before that pull up, Loyd was ripped clean by Shenise Johnson (24 pts, 8 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl), who took it the other way for a lay up.

Loyd’s jumper was followed by a Stewart triple. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis gave Seattle 12 points off the bench, 4 of which came from baseline out of bounds sets — both were bunnies that were as easy as they come.

Without Dupree’s jumper falling, somebody needed to pick up the slack for Indiana. Briann January, the engine to their offense, needed some help. Johnson and Tiffany Mitchell answered that call.

Here’s a nice extra pass sequence out of the pick and roll initiated by January. Johnson caps it off by hitting a corner three:

The extra pass there is so much of what makes basketball fun. But watch again. Can you see January’s eyes? She’s staring Breanna Stewart, the help defender, in the face. The second Stewart is fully committed to stopping that pick and roll, January slings her pass to the weak side. That is beautiful basketball.

Johnson may have had the best two way performance of the weekend in the W. As mentioned earlier, she picked Jewell Loyd’s pocket on her way to a score. Johnson did the same thing to Alysha Clark later in the same quarter:

This was a two possession game for the first 25 minutes. That Johnson strip and score cut it back down to 10. Seattle still led by 7 to start the 4th.

Briann January really knows how to relocate on the perimeter to step into an open three. She did it to set up her triple at the end of the first half, then again in the 4th to be sure Seattle wouldn’t lead by double digits again:

Indiana refused to go away in this one. A minute later, it was Mitchell getting open with an Iverson cut, then running a pick and roll with Larkins:

The entire Seattle defense collapsed onto Mitchell, but she found an angle to put it off the glass.

Indiana led by one inside 2:00 as Loyd stepped to the line for a pair. She missed both, but Stewart came up with the rebound, leading to this:

Connecticut ran the same ‘double high’ set Saturday to get Morgan Tuck an open triple. Two Indiana misses and a Seattle turnover later, the Storm came out of a timeout looking to add to a slim lead. Stewart found Crystal Langhorne (17 pts, 6 reb) for a layup.

Later down 6, the Fever ran a hammer that got Mitchell open for a left corner three, but it didn’t fall. Loyd and Stewart were able to lead Seattle to a solid victory over a tough Fever squad with Sue Bird still on the mend.

More from WNBA opening weekend: