Even though she was the reigning Rookie of the Year, Jewell Loyd was not the biggest story in Seattle coming into this season. That honor, of course, went to Breanna Stewart, who was picked No. 1 overall in the WNBA Draft last month. With tonight’s performance, however, Loyd made sure she’ll get her share of the spotlight.
After a difficult loss to the Los Angeles Sparks to start the season, Seattle faced another tough test on the road against the Phoenix Mercury, a team the GMs picked as the title favorite. And at first, the Storm looked destined for another defeat, trailing 23-12 after the first quarter. But thanks to a barrage of threes from Loyd and veteran Sue Bird, the Storm battled back to cut the deficit to just six at halftime.
Loyd then started the second half by scrapping for an offensive board, which she put back up for two among the trees. Her determination on that possession set the tone for the Storm heading down the stretch, as they hung right with the Mercury the rest of the way. Every time Brittney Griner scored on the block, or Diana Taurasi sunk a three, the Storm would respond.
When Taurasi put the Mercury up nine early in the fourth quarter, who was there to answer for the Storm? Loyd of course, as she circled up to the wing and drained a smooth fadeaway jumper to give her 20 points on the night. The second year guard wouldn’t score again for nearly four minutes, but no matter, her performance over the final three minutes more than made up for the short drought.
3:14 – Sinks a jumper from the elbow off an offensive rebound by Stewart. Mercury lead, 78-73.
2:39 – Takes the handoff from Bird and drives strong to the rim for the finish. Mercury lead, 78-75.
2:15 – Receives the look ahead pass from Bird out on the fastbreak and scores the layup. Mercury lead, 78-77.
0:49 – Gets the inbound pass in her own backcourt, careens off two screens and sinks the baseline jumper. Mercury lead, 80-79.
0:02.9 – Uses a multitude of crossovers, then hits the tough fadeaway off the glass right over the outstretched arm of Candice Dupreee. Storm lead, 81-80.
Final: Storm win, 81-80.
Jewell Loyd’s Game Winner
Loyd put the Storm on her back, scoring the team’s final 10 points over the last 3:14 of the fourth quarter to give Seattle their first win of the 2016 campaign. It was a brilliant offensive display, as Loyd scored inside and out, all alone on the break, and right in the face of the defense. 30 points, a career-high, was her final tally, and the Storm needed each and every one.
It may only be her second season in the league, but it seems likely Loyd will remember this performance for the rest of her career.