Jewell Loyd's game-winning heroics versus Dallas are nothing new
How the Seattle Storm guard thrives when the pressure is high
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Friday night must have been déjà vu for the Seattle Storm. Once again, the defending champions found themselves in overtime against the Dallas Wings. When these two teams met on May 22, the Storm needed overtime to claim a 100-97 victory. The rematch was no different.
Dallas kept pace with Seattle for nearly all 45 minutes of game time, including overcoming a late 82-92 deficit to force overtime. Imagine being the Storm, on the road against a feisty Wings team and having blown a double-digit victory heading into overtime. The momentum favored Dallas at least slightly.
In extra time, Seattle guard Jewell Loyd tied the game at 102 with 38 seconds to play on a baseline layup. With eight-tenths of a second remaining, Loyd came up big again for the Storm.
Loyd’s game-winner not only sealed the victory but put an exclamation point on a 25-point, 7-assist performance. Her 8-for-11 shooting from the field and 4-for-6 shooting on 3-pointers made this display even more impressive.
“I looked at the clock and it was at 0.5 [seconds]. And I was just like, ‘Alright, we have time.’ And then I just remembered what my shooting coach always tells me: ‘Set your feet, and once you set your feet you'll make shots,’” said Loyd after the game. “So I just knew I had to get both feet down. Steph[anie Talbot] set a good screen, [head coach Noelle Quinn] drew a great play.”
“And, yeah, I just set my feet and got a normal shot. … It felt like it took forever for the ball to actually get in the hoop, but in the moment you see the ball go, I just looked at my teammates and I saw [Breanna Stewart] right away. That was the moment. It was a great play and I'm glad I was able to execute.”
Quinn said the play she drew up was executed to perfection:
“What was supposed to happen happened. Dallas showed a lot of switching and it was just a play to kind of counter their switching. There were actually multiple options. We had Jewell coming off or we had [Stewart] open. If we look back and watch the film, I think Sue [Bird] was open as well, so this is Bubble vibes a little, back to when Jewell hit that same shot last year.”
Quinn brought up a great point: This is hardly the first example of Loyd pulling the Storm’s feet from the fire. On Sept. 4, Loyd did the same against the Los Angeles Sparks.
That was a late-season game with a meaningful impact on the standings with the Storm, Aces and Sparks vying for the No. 1 overall seed. Seattle trailed by two points with eight-tenths of a second left in regulation. Loyd’s corner 3 gave the Storm the victory and effectively took the Sparks out of contention for the top seed.
These big moments are something Loyd has become known for throughout her career. She is one of the most well-rounded players in the game who finds that other gear in high-pressure situations.
What makes Loyd so good in big moments
Not every player can handle these moments this well and this consistently. For Loyd, no moment seems too big for her. After her buzzer-beater against the Sparks, she said she practices shots like that from the corner and knew it was good as soon as it left her hand.
When the time comes for Loyd to take a big shot, she’s taken countless shots like it. Yet not every player is as successful as Loyd in these situations. What makes Loyd dangerous with the pressure on is her mindset.
“Who doesn't want to hit a buzzer-beater? I mean, you practice it all the time as a kid,” she said. “That's how I grew up in the parks, always counting in my head, ‘5, 4, 3, 2, 1—shoot,’ and in my room with the toy hoops, always playing like that with my brothers and stuff. So it's something I've always done as a kid. I visualized myself in these big moments trying to execute.”
While Loyd readily embraces these moments, we have seen plenty of players falter. Loyd says patience, readiness, not overthinking, experience, confidence and her teammates help in these situations.
Quinn has played with and now coaches Loyd, so she probably has as much insight into what makes Loyd great as anyone.
“She has that clutch gene. If you look at the overall progression of Jewell in her game, you know she's blossoming before our eyes,” said Quinn. “What you see is consistency, confidence and just stability. And she practices those shots. She has the DNA to hit those shots and she doesn't mind taking them. But she puts the work in. It's not a surprise that she's able to do that.”
“She has been so good this year. I mean, coming off last season, even just her consistency in both the offense and defensive end, I think you're just continuing to see her blossom and [take] on the ownership of being steady for us night in and night out.”
Whether you call it a clutch gene or just a mindset, Loyd has it. Such a memorable moment only adds to another great start to the season for Loyd. There will be more times like Friday night where the Storm need a hero, and Loyd will be there again when they need her.