SEATTLE — For the first time in two years, the Seattle Storm has been swept by an opponent in the regular season.
Despite Jewell Loyd’s biggest game since returning from an ankle injury, the Storm was unable to slow down the
No. 2-ranked Connecticut Sun, falling 89-70 Tuesday night at Alaska Airlines Arena. The loss concludes the Sun’s three-game sweep of the Storm in the regular season.
Loyd led Seattle with 18 points, followed by Crystal Langhorne with 12. Mercedes Russell led the team with seven rebounds. The Storm surrendered 17 turnovers to the Sun, which ended with three players in double digits, led by Alyssa Thomas with a game-high 22 points.
Connecticut’s 58 points in the paint is a team record, while also being a record on Seattle’s side for giving up that many opportunities.
“Connecticut, give them credit,” Storm coach Dan Hughes said. “They played tough-minded. They attacked us in several different ways. When you get that many points in the paint, it’s a really large amount to overcome.”
Starting with a 24-foot 3-pointer 45 seconds into the game, Loyd was one of the few Storm players to provide consistent production throughout the game. Her four 3-pointers marks her best performance behind the arc since Seattle’s game against Los Angeles on June 21.
For the team’s other All-Star, Natasha Howard, the performance was opposite. Howard’s six points on Tuesday marks her lowest scoring game of the season. Shooting 2 of 8 from the floor, she also made four turnovers.
“So many games, we have leaned heavily on her,” Hughes said. “This is one that just didn’t come through. It’s gonna happen.”
After Loyd’s opening 3-pointer, Alysha Clark followed suit with one of her own to get the Storm ahead 6-2 to start the game. Connecticut used its first timeout at the six-minute mark after Seattle was ahead 12-6 with Loyd responsible for seven of her team’s points. The six-point lead would be Seattle’s biggest of the night.
The Sun came out of the timeout with a run to tie the score and then lead 16-12.
The Storm fell into turnover trouble, making nine in the first two periods. Seattle began to fall apart, unable to follow through on shots and rebounds, which allowed Connecticut to put up a lead of 44-36 at the intermission.
The Sun also outplayed the Storm in the third quarter, scoring 27 points to Seattle’s 13.
“All game our defense was pretty bad,” Loyd said. “Transition defense, we talked about it in practice but to emulate that in game time with AT (Thomas) bringing the ball up the floor, it was different in game time. So that was half the battle. Turnovers obviously didn’t help us, either.”
With Seattle’s loss, the Minnesota Lynx jump a half a game above the Storm in the playoff standings.
“We have to get back to a cohesive offense and defense structure that allows the totality of who we are,” Hughes said. “These teams are raising it a little bit because they are playing for position for the playoffs. I think we are having to learn a hard lesson about how strong we have to be in what we gotta do with each other when teams like that raise it a notch.”