The Seattle Storm clinched a playoff berth earlier this week. They locked into the postseason because the New York Liberty got demolished by the Washington Mystics on Sunday. The playoff berth is really the only good news recently for Seattle. They have won just 3 games in August in large due to poor offense. After a season of overcoming obstacles, the Storm’s recent struggles have me wondering if it’s time to start doubting the Seattle Storm.
Battling through adversity all year
Seattle’s perseverance and ability to handle adversity has been well documented this season. It started with the MVP, Breanna Stewart, going down. Then the team leader, Sue Bird. Then head coach Dan Hughes started (and has conquered) a battle with cancer. It hasn’t been easy for the Storm in 2019.
The Champions dealt with the challenges admirably. After the first week of games, forward Natasha Howard said, “don’t doubt us,” when asked about what this team can do. The MVP candidate and her team proved all doubters wrong after that. They came out of the gates strong, producing two All-Star-starters in Howard and Jewell Loyd. The two have carried the team for most of the year along with emerging guards Sami Whitcomb and Jordin Canada.
The Storm currently sit in 4th in the Western Conference and have clinched a berth in the postseason. Seattle will defend their title in the postseason, which is something we were not sure would happen. They may even get to host a playoff game in the first round, if they can sneak into the 6th seed.
Not enough offense
The most recent part of the schedule hasn’t been kind to the Storm. The team is 3-7 in its last 10 games and sits right at the .500 mark. The weaknesses in the team that some predicted in the preseason are starting to truly take shape as Seattle’s lack of offensive firepower is starting to show.
Howard, Loyd, Canada, and Whitcomb are very respectable and sometimes deadly offensive players. They just aren’t enough for Seattle this season. Comparing how these four have played in wins vs losses is helpful to understanding why the Storm have struggled. In losses, they average 38.4 points per game while they average 45.3 points in wins. The most consistent in the wins/losses is Howard, where Whitcomb’s numbers are sporadic. For example, she was scoreless in 2 of the wins yet scored in every loss.
Not to say these players “check out” in losses, but it’s hard to rely on so many people every night. Last season, the Storm could lean on Bird and Stewart for a lot of production. If they had an off night, Seattle would turn to this group to back them up.
Without those two scorers on this team, Seattle now relies upon the “back line” from a year ago to put up “front line” numbers. While they might do it from time to time, it’s simply not going to happen as consistently as last year.
Don’t give up yet
Of the seven losses in the last ten games, six of them have come against teams currently in the playoffs. The one that didn’t was against the Indiana Fever, which clearly isn’t a good loss. The three wins came against two non-playoff teams and the team one spot ahead of Seattle, the Minnesota Lynx. It was a tough 10 game schedule and one could argue that Seattle walked out of it with the worst-case-scenario becoming reality. Losing against all of the playoff teams, plus Indiana.
The Storm are stumbling to the postseason, but that’s not even the part that really matters. What matters is that this is a team down two superstars and lacking major offensive weapons. Seattle’s defense has been very good and has kept them in games multiple times this season. However, this is an offensive league and the defense hasn’t proven to be consistent enough to stop playoff and championship-caliber teams.
This is not to say Seattle shouldn’t be taken seriously or that it can’t knock of a higher seed come playoff time. The Storm on any given night have the capability to stop a team’s top offensive weapon. It’s just a matter of if they can do it on a consistent basis or not. As the season comes to its end, it’s looking more and more like the answer is that they cannot.
It truly isn’t over until the final buzzer sounds for the Storm. As the saying goes, “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.” Well, that lady is warming up, and time is running out. Howard and her team backed up the “don’t doubt us” statement for majority of the season. Seattle still might be a threat, but it needs to start proving it again. And that needs to start soon.