Seattle – After three quarters on Thursday night at Climate Pledge Arena, Jewell Loyd had scored just four points, without a field goal to her name.
“I felt like I got shots early,” Loyd said. “They didn’t go in. I had to stay patient.”
That patience paid off, and the closing minutes of the Storm-Mystics first round one playoff game belonged to the Gold Mamba. Trailing by five with just over five minutes to play, Storm head coach Noelle Quinn called on the eight-year veteran, as Seattle went to its starters for the final stretch.
With 12 points, including a pair of key 3-pointers and the go-ahead jumper with 38.1 seconds to play, Loyd delivered in an eventual 86-83 Storm victory.
“She pushed through today in a big way, in a major way,” Quinn said.
Forward Elena Delle Donne finished with 26 points to lead all scorers, as one of four Washington players in double-figures, while Breanna Stewart had a team-high 23 for Seattle.
“We didn’t execute at the end,” said Mystics head coach Mike Thibault. “We got Elena some great looks. But a couple of crucial plays that we didn’t get, and that’s the ballgame.”
Washington took a 42-40 lead into the break, after a back-and-forth first half that saw the Mystics score the game’s first seven points, while Seattle led by as many as eight early in the second quarter.
In a game that included 15 lead changes, neither team led by more than two possessions in the second half.
Nursing a one-point edge after Loyd’s jumper with less than a minute to go, Seattle forced an errant pass on the ensuing Washington possession, with two Loyd free-throws extending the Storm lead to three.
“We had a play for Elena, and if they doubled her, Ariel [Atkins] would be wide open at the three and she was,” Thibault said, “and we just couldn’t make the connection.”
A missed 3-pointer by Delle Donne, and a pair of free throws from Stewart sealed the Seattle win before a crowd of 8,917.
“The crowd was amazing,” Loyd said. “I fed off that energy a lot.”
The Storm can close out the series in Seattle with a win on Sunday at 1 p.m. PT. A Washington victory would send the teams to D.C. for a winner-take-all game three on Wednesday.
“This is what playoff basketball is about,” Quinn said. “It’s good to get this win, but the job is not done.”
- Faces in the crowd: A pair of members of the Sonics’ 1979 championship team, Jack Sikma and Wally Walker, were on hand, along with fellow Sonics legend Slick Watts and a pair of modern local NBA standouts in Isaiah Thomas and Dejounte Murray.
- Seattle has now won three of four meetings against Washington this season. The Mystics took the first game at Climate Pledge Arena 87-83 on June 22, while the Storm won the lone D.C. tilt 85-78 on Aug. 22, and the rematch in Seattle on Sept. 7, 105-72.