Seattle ends losing streak by regaining its defensive identity

To many, the best offense is a good defense. That had been true for Seattle heading into the All-Star Break, as they sat comfortably at a 12-9. After a 10-day break between games, the defense looked flat in the first two games out of the break. Seattle needed to get to their stout defensive ways to win and, in the last two games, they did just that.

Defense during the skid

Against the Mystics in the first game back, Seattle got ran out of the gym and lost 99-79. Washington scored 21 or more point in each quarter and outscored the Storm in every frame. The Mystics had five players in double figures, including a game high 29 from Elena Delle Donne.

It was Seattle’s largest loss of the season and it was ugly from the tip. The Storm started 1-12 from the field and trailed by double digits early. Washington shot 54.8 percent from the field and made 13 of 22 from behind the arc. The Mystics also were on fire from the charity stripe and went 18-for-19 from the free throw line.

The next game wasn’t any easier for the Storm, who lost 83-75 on the road to the LA Sparks. Seattle was never able to gain momentum after a fast start, at one point trailing by 17. The Storm showed some promise though, as they buckled down in the second half defensively.

After allowing Los Angeles to shoot 58.3 percent from the field in the first 30 minutes of play, the Storm held the Sparks to 30.8 percent shooting in the fourth quarter and outscored Los Angeles 19-13 in the final frame. Seattle was also able to hold the Sparks scoreless for the final 2:50 of play.

The Storm need great defense to succeed

The lack of defensive play is new for Seattle. In their last win before the break against the Aces, the Storm won a defensive battle 69-66. They tallied 18 steals in a game where they only shot 27.8 percent from the field. The Storm’s defense has bailed them out in a season that they have lacked some offensive fire power.

In the Storm victories, they are holding their opponents to 71 points per game. In losses, they allow on average 78.6 points. Seattle is proving that the way to winning games consistently is by providing lock-down defense.

Head coach Dan Hughes thinks that Seattle can rely more on its defense that it currently is.

“We can lean on our defense a little bit,” Hughes said.  “When I came here, that was a decision I made right out of the gate. I looked at our personnel and I thought that [Gary Kloppenburg’s defensive scheme] fit our personnel really well.”

Bouncing Back

Seattle was in the midst of its second 3-game losing streak of the season before its contest against the Dallas Wings. The last time the Storm found themselves in this position, they rebounded with 4 straight W’s. If Seattle wants to regain the winning edge, they need to get back to the defensive style it was playing with before the break.

The Storm might have a night where they can win an offensive shootout, but those nights come few and far between. Seattle plays at its best when they focus on forcing turnovers and playing tough defensively. The team has some players that can pick your pocket, including Jordin Canada and Natasha Howard. They are currently tied for the lead in steals, each with 52 steals.

Seattle returned home for a battle with the Dallas Wings Thursday night. While anyone in the league can be a threat, this was a night for Seattle to hone in on defense. Seattle provided a winning formula of lock down defense en route to a 69-57 win.

The Wings were only able to muster 19 second half points after scoring 38 in the first. Seattle got off to a slow start in the game and it looked like the Wings had a chance to escape with a win. In the second half, however, Seattle showed its defensive prowess.

Seattle forced a total of 19 turnovers that led to 17 points off Dallas mistakes. Fifteen of those turnovers came in the second half, which Seattle converted to 10 points. Storm forward Natasha Howard tied a franchise record with 6 steals in the contest.

The Storm followed up that performance by holding the New York Liberty to just 69 points in Brooklyn. They won the turnover battle by forcing NY into 18 while only coughing it up 11 times. Seattle also got 10 steals, led by Mercedes Russell and Sami Whitcomb’s three steals each.

Seattle’s magic number number seems to be about 75 points. If the Storm defense can keep a team at or under the 75 point mark then they have a good chance to win that game. The offensive weapons they do have don’t show up consistently enough to win a lot of shootouts.

Keeping WNBA teams to 75 will be tough, especially come playoff time. Seattle has a good test Wednesday at Washington, a team that dropped the previously 99 points. Look for Seattle to improve it’s defensive scheme against the highly talented Mystics.

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