The Seattle Storm are a massively changed team from the one that won the Finals last year. But in a rematch of that series, they weathered yet another injury and proved again that they're still a force in the WNBA.
While Friday’s matchup between the Storm and the Mystics was a Finals rematch, the game started—and ended—without many of the big-name players that defined last year’s series. Despite the absences, the two teams played a wildly entertaining game that ended with Jewell Loyd hitting the game-winning shot with seven seconds left to cap off Seattle's thrilling comeback 74-71 win.
Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart are the obvious headliners who missed out as both are still recovering from long-term injuries, but it turns out that Kristi Toliver wouldn’t get too much time on the floor either.
Toliver was ejected in the first quarter after picking up two quick technical fouls, the first for seemingly surprising a ref with a behind-the-back pass after arguing a call and the second coming after slamming the ball on the court after another call.
The Mystics weren’t the only team to lose one of their star players, though the Storm may have significantly more to worry about after Friday. Jordin Canada landed awkwardly on her left leg right before halftime and didn’t return to the game after being diagnosed with a left knee injury.
The injury certainly didn’t look good and only appeared worse as she needed to be helped off the court.
Seattle fought on, keeping the game in touching distance before clamping down on defense in the fourth quarter—holding Washington to eight points—and tying the game at 71 in the final minute. That’s when Loyd stepped up, pulling up from just inside the three-point line to nail the game-winner.
After Toliver’s ejection, Elena Delle Donne and Ariel Powers took it upon themselves to carry Washington for the majority of the game, with the former leading the team with 19 points. They almost gave Washington the win too, as Delle Donne skillfully redirected an inbounds pass to Powers, giving her a free drive to the lane. But Powers’s floater came up just short, and Seattle was able to hold on, hitting an insurance free throw and handing Washington its first loss at its new home.
Canada’s injury, depending on its severity, could be another massive blow to a Storm team riddled with injuries to its stars. But this team has proven time and again this season that it’s more than the sum of its biggest names.
Natasha Howard has truly broken out this year. She’s currently the third leading scorer in the WNBA with 19.5 points per game and has proven to be the steadying presence Seattle needs alongside Loyd.
Their combined efforts have led the Storm to the No. 2 spot in the rankings, just behind the red-hot Connecticut Sun, and if Canada’s injury isn’t too serious, it’s hard to see many teams overtaking them in the near future.