A 15-5 Chicago (2-2) run in the last three minutes of the game turned what had been a comfortable lead for Seattle (2-3) into a nail biting finish on Wednesday night. While the return of Breanna Stewart was big news for Seattle, it was Ezi Magbegor who stole the show as she tied a career high with 21 points.
Against her former team, that she never played a minute for, Gabby Williams scored seven points on three of five from the field. Williams recorded a key block of a Courtney Vandersloot two point layup; unfortunately Candace Parker recovered the rebound and was able to hit an uncontested shot to make it 71-74 with 35.2 seconds left in the game. That would be the final bucket.
Chicago’s runs started in response to a Rashanda Gray layup off of a brilliant pass by Magbegor. Gray’s bucket was sandwiched between a Vandersloot three and an Azura Stevens jumper — Stevens’ jumper made it 69-58 Seattle with 5:02 left. At that point, the Storm’s offense went ice cold down the stretch as it felt like the Sky couldn’t miss a bucket. The Sky’s run was also fueled by poor shot selection and sloppy ball handling by Seattle.
The Storm’s last bucket of the game was a Williams three with 2:28 left in the game. With how Chicago had shot in the fourth quarter, they were lucky that the 74-69 lead was able to hold up.
Magbegor and Stewart were the only two Storm players to finish in double digits. Magbegor was nine of 13 from the field and missed her only shot from beyond the arc. As for Chicago, they had four players in double digits but weren’t able to hit a three in the last two and a half minutes to tie the game.
It was the the third quarter that showed that no lead was safe against the defending WNBA champions as they were able to stifle the Storm’s offense and find buckets when they needed them down the stretch. Emma Meesseman and Ruth Hebard caused all sorts of problems in the paint which slowed Magbegor down; something Chiago was able to continue throughout the fourth quarter. And that really made a difference in the game.
Seattle closed out the final 5:40 second quarter on a 14-2 run to take a 46-34 lead into the halftime locker room. That run was heavily influenced by the Storm’s ability to generate turnovers and turn them into points on the fast break — in fact Seattle was able to generate 12 points off of turnovers throughout the first half.
Magbegor kicked off the run with an easy layup off of a beautiful no-look pass from Bird and it was capped by a layup for Williams with 28.1 left on the clock.
The fact that the Storm’s defense was able to completely and utterly shut down Chicago in what essentially was the last six minutes of the half came as a surprise. Until Seattle’s run, neither team was able to separate from the other; the largest lead prior to it had been six for Seattle when the game was at 32-26. Chicago went on a mini 5-0 run to cut the Storm’s lead back down to one before the game they took control of the half.
Chicago had stated the game in a 5-0 hole and had a hard time catching up to Seattle throughout the first quarter. It wasn’t until a Sue Bird turnover was paired with a missed Lloyd three that the Sky were able to erase a 11-6 Seattle lead and tie the game up at 11. The Sky’s only lead of the game came with 37.2 left in the first quarter off of a Rebekah Gardner bank shot. But Jantel Lavender erased that with a jumper of her own to send the Seattle into the first intermission with a 23-22 lead.
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