How well does the Storm bench need to play?

Thursday's win over Minnesota showed essential nature of Seattle's reserves

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PALMETTO, FL- SEPTEMBER 22: Sami Whitcomb #33 of the Seattle Storm shoots the ball against the Minnesota Lynx during Game 1 of the Semifinals of the WNBA Playoffs on September 22, 2020 at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida.

Alysha Clark’s last-second heroics in Tuesday’s Game 1 made for an exciting finish but came in a closer contest than the Storm would have liked.

The difference in Seattle’s 89-79 victory in Game 2? The bench play.

Sure, the Storm looked like they shook off the rust in Game 1 after idling for two weeks. Four of five Seattle starters finished in double figures, led by Jewell Loyd’s 20 points.

Yet, Seattle’s reserves provided the starters enough support to help them to a comfortable victory. The Storm bench combined for 9-for-14 and 21 points. That 21 points has been a notable number for that unit all season long. Let’s take a closer look.

  • Seattle is 1-1 in regular-season games in which the bench scores 0-9 points. In Tuesday’s Game 1 last-second victory, the Storm had just nine bench points and just escaped.

  • Seattle is 4-2 when the bench scores between 10-19 points. This includes close calls against teams like Atlanta and Los Angeles, as well as losses to Indiana and Las Vegas.

  • Seattle was 14-1 when the bench scored 20 or more points. Their one loss? Their early-season loss to Washington in which they missed 20 3-pointers and the starters outscored the bench 36-35.

The talent at the top of the Storm’s lineup is incredible but has not always been enough. They need Sami Whitcomb, Mercedes Russell, Jordin Canada, and others to contribute, too. Breanna Stewart and Loyd can’t play 40 minutes. Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg knows this, too.

“Mercedes [Russell] did a good job, battling in there defensively. She did a good job in the screen and roll and scored inside, and then Sami [Whitcomb] got going, hit a couple of threes in there,” said Kloppenburg. “I thought our bench did a really good job, we outscored them 21-8 off the bench and we need that going forward for this next game. Hopefully, we can get by that one and move on.”

This is especially true against a depleted Lynx team that is missing key players to injury. The 2020 Storm’s reserves were 2019’s starters and are well-prepared to play any role. Because of last season’s experience, these reserves are ready.

As long as the starters don’t have an aberration performance, like their loss to the Mystics, the bench can give the Storm an edge any given night. The scary thing isn’t just how often the Storm win when their bench scores over 20 points, it’s how consistently they’ve scored that often.

After Thursday, the Storm bench has now scored 20 points or more for the 16th time this season and moved to 15-1 in those games. If Seattle is going to be successful in Game 3 and beyond, they’re going to need this trend to continue.