The WNBA defending champion Seattle Storm had defeated the Las Vegas Aces four straight games, three in a row last season to win the 2020 crown and the season opener.
The last two they won by double digits and after a stellar opening night that saw a team with a lot of new names start slow but finish strong it seemed that the Storm (1-1) had the Aces number.
But Las Vegas (1-1) figured out a cure and in their second meeting on Tuesday, May 18th the Aces did their own double-digit defeat downing Seattle 96-80 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett.
Storm head coach Dan Hughes felt the team expended a lot of energy during the third and fourth quarters which produced some good moments but Vegas took advantage of foul trouble and stayed physical.
“I thought Vegas played well,” said Hughes. “I thought they were able to get a balance in scoring along with their post game, so they did a lot of things well. But we had trouble…They went to the foul line repeatedly in those situations and I thought we didn’t come out with the same kind of attack energy that you saw in the second and third quarters. And they came out very physical, very strong and put us on our heels a little bit.”
It was a wire-to-wire win for Las Vegas who never trailed as they started with an overwhelming first quarter outscoring the Storm 31-14.
The second quarter saw Seattle outscore the Aces 17-14 but still saw Las Vegas get their biggest lead with 6:17 left in the half and the score 39-18.
But in the words of Storm guard Sue Bird in reference to people commenting on all the players the team lost, “we still have Stewie (forward Breanna Stewart) and Jewell (guard Jewell Loyd)” and it was those two players who lifted the team to start the third.
Loyd started by scoring the first eight points of the second half to inch the Storm closer and bring them into a single digit difference.
After Loyd it was Stewart’s turn who then scored the next nine points and it seemed that Seattle was going to make it a game as they outscored Las Vegas 31-21 in the quarter including a half-court buzzer beater by Katie Lou Samuelson to end the third.
But despite getting as close as four points, 66-62 the Storm couldn’t stop the Aces and they pulled away again in the fourth after starting the final quarter with an 11-2 run and coasted to the win.
There were bright spots with Breanna Stewart hitting her 37th career double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds and the youngest member of the team Ezi Magbegor had her first start and took advantage of it by scoring her first career double-double with 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Loyd finished with 17 points, Samuelson finished with 13 and guard Sue Bird completed five assists.
Stewart talked about two of the newest members of the team and how they can continue to develop and meld with their teammates.
“The thing with (Katie) Lou and Ezi is just continuing to play and realizing that basketball is a game of runs,” said Stewart. “There’s going to be a lot of mistakes happening. There’s going to be a lot of good things, but just playing through them. Maybe this team is unlike any other team that they’ve been on but we have a freedom and a style and a rhythm that we play with, where we just try to play fast and read each other and as long as you can do that you make an aggressive move, whether it’s a mistake or not. At least it’s impressive.”
Las Vegas had six players score in double figures led by guard Jackie Young with 21. A’ja Wilson and Liz Cambage each scored 18.
The teams get a break from each other as Seattle hits the road for the next two games. They will take on the Minnesota Lynx at 5pm (PT) on Thursday, May 20 then head to the Dallas Wings to play at 5pm (PT) on Saturday, May 22. Both games are currently scheduled to be shown live on Joe TV.
The Storm return home to play against the Connecticut Sun at 7 pm on Tuesday, May 25 at Angel of the Wings Arena in Everett.