It was a close one with some intense moments that almost went to the Seattle Storm, but the 2016 preseason opener against Phoenix was lost on Wednesday. Even though the #1 draft pick of the year Breanna Stewart not only scored 11 points during the game and put 8 rebounds on her record, creating a new rebound high in the history of the Storm, her 29 minutes on the court were not enough to save the game.
At halftime, the teams were tied, but the Mercury came back rejuvenated and ready to win, pulling out all the stops and running 15-1 during both the third and fourth quarter, climbing on top and taking control of the game before the Storm could grab the horns back. In the end, the final score was a tight 81-73. Part of the loss, however, was likely from Seattle Storm Head Coach Jenny Boucek taking Bird out for the second half of the game and utilizing her younger players instead.
Boucek had a reason, of course—to size up her youthful team and see what they were made of during an actual game—and you can’t expect her to run all of her best players all of the time anyway. Even so, it was a wakeup call for players who had just completed their first training with the Storm and lost their first WNBA preseason opener. There was also the fact that most of the veterans on the team were still playing overseas. Boucek said, “I think we’ll learn a lot from it. After watching the film, we’ll learn a lot. It’s our starting point. You can’t really recreate a WNBA game without playing one. …We have some tough decisions in terms of roster spots, but we’re also trying to build chemistry with our core players because they haven’t played together before.”
Bird went on to explain, “Those are the lessons we have to learn moving forward. It’s small plays that can add up to large deficit. All it takes is going brain-dead for a minute, and you could lose by 10 or 15 points. Because we’re a young team, we’re going to have those moments and it’s about how quickly we can eliminate them.”
It is a close loss like this one that does indeed teach you how narrow a victory can be. With just slightly tighter playing, the Storm could have tipped the scales back into their favor.
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