The Seattle Storm survived in Game 2 of the 2018 WNBA Finals, winning 75-73 to take a 2-0 series lead on the Washington Mystics on Sunday at KeyArena in Seattle.
Breanna Stewart had a game-high 25 points to lead the Storm to victory. Elena Delle Donne finished with 17 points for the Mystics, her highest total since suffering a knee injury in Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals.
Mystics Still Have No Answer for 2018 MVP Breanna Stewart
Entering this season, one of the biggest questions was how the Mystics would defend Stewart, especially with Delle Donne's injury leaving her at less than 100 percent. Neither Delle Donne nor LaToya Sanders is a great rim protector, which is an area the Storm can exploit to great effect using the 2018 WNBA MVP.
Stewart shot 7-of-13 from the field, with Washington having a lot of trouble slowing her down when she got the ball close to the basket. Simply fouling Stewart isn't much of a strategy either, since she was 10-of-14 from the charity stripe.
Two of those misses came with 16.9 seconds remaining and Seattle clinging to a 74-73 lead.
Ultimately, the Finals may boil down to whether the Mystics can neutralize Stewart.
She's the Storm's best player and somebody who can single-handedly keep Seattle's offense afloat when nothing else is working. Washington held Natasha Howard, Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird to 29 combined points, and it still wasn't enough to get the win.
Stewart's presence wasn't the deciding factor in the outcome, but her consistency was what the Storm needed to with their secondary scorers struggling for the most part.
Poor Three-Point Shooting Continues to Hamstring Washington Offense
Through two games of the WNBA Finals, the Mystics are 3-of-37 from three-point range. They missed all 16 of their attempts in Game 2.
A lot went right for Washington in addition to keeping the Storm's supporting cast in check. According to WNBA.com, the Mystics were ninth in offensive pace, with Seattle sitting second. Game 2 was much more in the Mystics' wheelhouse compared to the more frenetic Game 1. Kristi Toliver had 15 points after scoring just five Friday.
However, Washington's dreadful three-point shooting negated all of that progress.
The Storm themselves didn't have a great game from long range, going 6-of-23, but that still meant they had an 18-point edge in three-point shooting. That kind of gap is almost impossible to overcome in a playoff game.
The Mystics shot 35.8 percent from the perimeter as a team during the regular season, and Toliver is the kind of shooter who can go 1-of-14 on three-pointers over the first two games of a playoff series and then catch fire in the third.
Some improvement should be expected in Game 3, and it may be necessary in order to push the Finals to a fourth game.
Storm Need Jewell Loyd Back to Her Best in Game 3
Through the first half, Loyd had one point and missed her four shot attempts. Not coincidentally, the Storm trailed 40-36 at halftime.
Loyd then scored 10 points in the third quarter to help energize the offense and set up a fourth quarter in which Seattle took control of the game.
Simply put, the Storm are a different offensive team when Loyd is firing on all cylinders. She can score from all three levels, and her ability to space the floor opens up the paint for Stewart and Howard. There's a reason Seattle is 12-0 when Loyd scores at least 20 points following her 23-point showing in Game 1.
Like Toliver, you don't always know what version of Loyd is going to show up for a given game. If Loyd is her most efficient self in Game 3, the Finals could be over in short order.
The series shifts to Fairfax, Virginia, for Game 3. The Mystics will host the Storm at EagleBank Arena on Wednesday, with the tip scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.