Let’s Not Forget How Vital the Other Three Seattle Starters Are
By Tyler Berry
For the second straight playoff series, the Seattle Storm are on the road for game three with a chance to close out the series. Unlike in the Conference Finals, the Storm have history on its side, as no team in an WNBA Finals best-of-five series has ever fought back to force game five after going down 2-0. The odds are clearly in Seattle’s favor.
However, as game two proved, beating the Mystics will be no easy task. It’ll require solid all-around performances from the entire team. We’ve spent all season talking about Sue Bird and the 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart, but we can’t forget how important the other three starters have been for this year’s success. Jewell Loyd, Natasha Howard, and Alysha Clark have all had big games in these playoffs and, if they each contribute the way they did in games one and two, Seattle should secure a championship on Wednesday night.
The forward’s first three games against Phoenix weren’t some of her best. She shot a combined 4-of-16 from the field and wasn’t even her usual brand of dominant on the glass. However, since game four of the Conference Finals, Clark has shown just how good she can be in the paint.
In games one and two against Washington, Clark capitalized on her scoring chances, hitting all but two of her shots. She even saw success from behind the arc, hitting two threes in game two which helped spark an early lead. Yet, it hasn’t been her scoring that’s been her biggest contribution. Her ability to clean up the glass, especially on the offensive end (she had six total offensive rebounds), has led to more possessions and more second-chance opportunities, and that’s dangerous. A Seattle team that already scores at will can only get better with extra possessions.
Even a cursory glance at the Storm rosters from 2017 to 2018 will give you a good look at what changed for this team over the past 12 months. There was no better offseason roster move than bringing in center Natasha Howard, a player that had just 15 starts in her first four seasons and had never averaged more than 7.0 points per game.
In her fifth season, she shined, averaging 13.2 points and 6.4 rebounds. Her regular season success has translated into postseason success. Howard was phenomenal offensively in game one, hitting 8-of-9 from the field for 19 points. In game two, she struggled shooting the ball, but made her presence felt on the glass. She had 13 rebounds, including five on the offensive end, and brought a solid defensive game on the interior.
Somehow, we seem to overlook Jewell Loyd, despite her scoring ability and quick hands on defense. Loyd averaged 15.5 points this season but was somewhat overshadowed by the many storylines surrounding Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart. And yet, without her all-around consistency this season, the Storm might not be in its current position.
What makes Loyd such a vital member of this starting lineup is her ability to get to the basket. Even when she struggles shooting the ball, the guard knows how to get into the lane and draw fouls. You saw a great example of this in game two against Phoenix. Loyd was just 2-of-9 from the field but finished 8-of-10 from the line and tallied 13 points. All of those were big points, when you consider how that game ended.
In the finals, she’s been more consistent shooting the ball (14-for-27 from the field) and her ability to get to the rim forces plenty of help from off-ball defenders, which leads to open shooters. That’s always good news for a Seattle team with five starters who can shoot from the outside.
While Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart have been the talk of these playoffs, let’s not forget how much the other starters bring to the table. If Clark, Howard, and Loyd can each get going, the Storm should have its third WNBA title locked up.