Three questions for the Storm for the second half of the WNBA season

It’s probably no coincidence the Storm delivered arguably their best performance of the season during Tina Charles’ debut. 

Despite a double-digit win against the WNBA-leading Las Vegas Aces on Wednesday, let’s slow down on the super team talk as it pertains to Seattle. 

At the very least, let’s see how the Storm (12-7) navigate the next three weeks — a favorable stretch to make an upward move in the standings — while facing six teams that are below .500.  

Following Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup against the Indiana Fever (5-16), the Storm have a three-game road trip before the July 10 WNBA All-Star Game. 

“Just understanding that every game is important and understanding this is the WNBA and everyone is really good at what they do,” Storm forward Breanna Stewart said when asked about the mindset heading into the upcoming six-game stretch. “They wouldn’t be here otherwise. We respect all of our opponents equally and know it’s more about us than it is about them. 

“We’re the ones that’s going to set the tone for the game no matter who we’re playing. We’re in a very unique situation for these next four games going into All-Star break, and we want to make sure momentum is in our favor.” 

As we start the second half of the WNBA season, here’s a look at three questions the Storm must answer during their remaining 17 regular-season games. 

How does Tina Charles fit in? 

The Storm made the biggest move of the season acquiring the nine-time All-WNBA center after she mutually agreed to a “contract divorce” from the Phoenix Mercury. 

In February, Charles signed a one-year deal worth a reported $108,000 with Phoenix and last Saturday settled on a reported $56,673 buyout. 

The Storm will reportedly pay Charles $34,285 for the remainder of the season, which erases nearly all of its salary-cap room this season. 

Charles had a quiet debut — four points, five rebounds and three turnovers in 16 minutes — and did not start for the first time in her 12-season career. 

There’s a plausible scenario in which the Storm keep bringing Charles off the bench even though she’s a 33-year-old superstar still in her prime with career averages of 18.4 points and 9.2 rebounds. 

Charles’ skill set and interior presence bolsters the second unit and creates perimeter scoring opportunities for Stephanie Talbot, Epiphanny Prince and Briann January. 

What are the potential pitfalls? 

At some point over the final two months of the season, it will behoove the Storm to develop an interior scoring attack that features Charles considering the 6-foot-4 center is a career 46% shooter on two-point field goals. 

The Storm’s up-tempo offense ranks among the league leaders in field-goal attempts per game (69.1) and three-point attempts (26.4). 

However, good teams — especially in the playoffs — present several defensive challenges and Charles is one of the best low-post options in WNBA history. 

When the Storm are making shots and receiving offensive contributions from role players such as Ezi Magbegor and Gabby Williams, they’re virtually impossible to beat. 

Too often, Seattle, which ranks ninth in field goal percentage (42.1%) and points per game (79.2), struggles to score.  

In three of the past four seasons — not including 2019 when Stewart and Bird sat out because of injuries — the Storm averaged at least 84.8, 87.5 and 87.2 points. 

This season, the Storm have been held to fewer than 80 points in nine games. 

Can defense carry them to a championship? 

We highlighted the offensive woes, so it’s only fair to praise a defense that’s been one of the best in the WNBA while holding opponents to 80 or fewer points in 13 games. 

The Storm rank first in opponent’s turnovers (17.0) and opponent free-throw attempts per game (13.1) and second in points allowed (77.0) and points off turnovers (18.6). 

By comparison, the Storm allowed 76.0 points and forced 16.4 turnovers per game in 2020 en route to winning their fourth WNBA title. 

During an 88-78 win against Las Vegas on Wednesday, the Storm were at their tyrannical best while forcing the Aces into a season-high 20 turnovers that led to 23 points. 

“We were on a string and just connected,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said. “That was good to see. … And I hope we see more of that.” 

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