Can The Mystics Solve The Storm's Defensive Puzzle?

By Brady Klopfer


The Seattle Storm finished the regular season third in the league with an ultra-stingy defensive rating of 98.8. They’re not an easy squad to get buckets on.

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It’s no easy task, even for professional scorers like Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver. It’s no easy task, even for master technicians like Mike Thibault. It’s simply no easy task to score on this rangy, quick Seattle defense, which features length at every position, dreamy rotations, and one of the league’s truly great defenders in Natasha Howard.

It’s no easy task, but it’s one Washington must find a way to accomplish in order to keep their season alive, as they enter Game 3 of the WNBA Finals with their backs against the door, trailing 2-0. Fail to figure out the Storm’s defense, and the Mystics head into the offseason Wednesday night - so close, and yet so far. But figure out the defense, and they get themselves right back into the series.

While bad luck certainly contributed to Washington’s dismal 0-16 performance from beyond the arc on Sunday, the team simply failed to create open looks. They were locked up inside (with the exception of opportunities created by offensive rebounds), which put undue pressure on the perimeter; it was a dangerous cycle. Seattle was able to play the Mystics relatively straight up due to Washington’s inability to create looks at the rim, and as a result, no one in a road jersey was able to find space or separation.

Washington needs more ball movement, and above all else, they need more penetration. With Delle Donne clearly physically compromised, the Mystics don’t have anyone who can easily beat Seattle in isolation. But that shouldn’t prohibit them from driving and moving with purpose, forcing the Storm defense to move and rotate, and opening up doors for their own offense to attack.

The series is far from over. But in a battle between Seattle’s third-ranked defense and Washington’s third-ranked offense, the Storm are comfortably winning. Washington needs to flip the script on that matchup, and force Seattle to adapt, rather than the other way around.