Jewell Loyd leads the way as Storm cruise to road win over Fever

This is what the Storm had in mind when they acquired Tina Charles two weeks ago. 

On a night when their young promising center Ezi Magbegor tallied a double-double performance in limited minutes and got in foul trouble, Seattle brought eight-time WNBA All-Star Tina Charles off the bench during a decisive third-quarter run. 

“It’s great to have depth there because our deficiencies up to this point have been rebounding and scoring,” coach Noelle Quinn said. “Adding a prolific scorer like Tina offsets a lot of where we had been struggling in the first part of the year.  

“To have great players who can play off one another and have different rotations where we don’t drop off defensively or offensively, that makes us a very good team.” 

To be sure, the Indiana Fever didn’t provide much resistance while the Storm tallied their second most points of the season during a 95-73 win Tuesday night in front of 2,585 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. 

And it’s difficult to make long-range assessments following a blowout win against Indiana (5-18), which has the worst record in the WNBA and has lost five straight. 

But this was a night when Seattle (14-8), which moved into a third-place tie in the league standings, put it all together and looked every bit like a championship contender. 

The Storm had inspiring outings this season. They dismantled New York by 31 points, beat then-league leading Las Vegas by double digits and held Indiana to 57 points during a lopsided win last week. 

However, Tuesday night’s 22-point beatdown was more impressive due to the variety of contributions. 

Jewell Loyd scored 25 points — one shy of her season high — and had four three-pointers. Gabby Williams turned steals into momentum-swinging fast-break buckets and finished with tallied 14 points, six rebounds and two steals. Breanna Stewart had a quiet night and still finished with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks. 

And Sue Bird dished five assists to offset a 1-for-7 shooting performance while Seattle’s bench outscored Indiana’s reserves 30-9. 

In the middle of it all — literally — Magbegor (12 points and 11 rebounds) and Charles (13 points and eight rebounds) comprised a dominant duo inside that allowed Seattle to finish with more points in the paint (52-30) and rebounds (43-36). 

“It’s good to see our bigs being efficient from the floor and being physical,” Quinn said. “Obviously, with Ezi and her defensive prowess and blocking shots and Tina becoming more comfortable. It feels good to see what we can be. That’s a glimpse of that and a snapshot of that today. Having our bigs be more productive and giving us shots on goal and more paint points, all of those things matter.” 

From the start, Seattle’s offensive firepower overwhelmed a rebuilding Indiana team that features six rookies and an interim coach. 

Loyd, who began the game with a three-pointer on the opening possession, had nine points in the first quarter when the Storm finished the quarter leading 23-16. And she had 14 in the first half to carry Seattle to a 44-35 lead. 

It was a resurgent performance for the four-time WNBA All-Star guard, who scored fewer than 10 points in five of the previous seven games after tallying double digits in 12 of the first 13 this season. 

Indiana held her to six points four days earlier in Seattle, but this time the Fever had no defense for Loyd, who connected on 9 of 19 shots, including 4 of 10 on three-pointers. She also had three assists and three steals in 29 minutes. 

“It’s really important for Jewell to be aggressive,” Charles said. “Once she’s aggressive regardless of it the shot is going in or out they have to respect her. It definitely opens things up for us.” 

The Storm, which entered the game with an 11-1 record when leading or tied at halftime, put the game away in the third while outscoring the Fever 33-23. 

Seattle led 61-54 with 2:55 left in the third and pulled away with a 16-4 run to end the quarter. Loyd scored eight points and Charles had six, including a three-pointer that capped the spurt for a 77-58 lead. 

“A major key when you join a new team is learning the plays,” said Charles who entered the game averaging 5.0 points and 5.0 rebounds with the Storm. “The fact that I was finally able to learn the plays allows me to know where my spots are and know where the defense can be, especially coming off the bench and see where things are open. That definitely helps.  

“The more I know the plays and I’m comfortable, I’ll reflect who everyone expects of me. These guys definitely encourage me and put confidence in me that they want me to reflect that.” 

Indiana, which received a game-high 21 points from Kelsey Mitchell, never got closer than 15 points the rest of the way. 

“This shows what we can be when we’re locked in and when we’re all in sync and connected,” Quinn said. “It was great to see Gabby and her activity. You take a look at Ezi and her double-double. Tina getting comfortable and Sue distributing.  

“The quality and the characteristic of our players coming together to — sometimes it’s mind over matter when you’re getting into these stretches of the season and it’s good to see production all across the board because it shows once again our depth and that’s going to come into play.” 

Seattle concludes its three-game road trip Thursday in Los Angeles before the WNBA All-Star break. 

NOTES 

Briann January and Sue Bird, who are retiring after the season, were honored by the Indiana Fever during a pregame ceremony. Lin Dunn, the former Storm coach who drafted Bird and led Indiana to the 2012 WNBA title with January, presented both players with a framed poster commemorating their careers. 

Breanna Stewart won the WNBA Western Conference Player of the Month award for June. She averaged 22.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while helping the Storm to a 7-4 record. It’s the first time this season and the third time during her career in which Stewart has won the award, previously receiving the recognition in May 2021 and July 2018. 

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