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Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm handles the ball against the Los Angeles Sparks on September 4, 2020, at Feld Entertainment Center in Palmetto, Florida. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via GettyImages)
The Seattle Storm haven’t had their backs against the wall often this season. Yet, that’s exactly where Jewell Loyd and the Storm found themselves during a timeout with 0.8 seconds remaining in a game they trailed 89-87 on Friday.
Loyd received the inbounds pass from Sue Bird in the corner and quickly hoisted a 3-pointer to give the Storm the comeback win.
“Noey drew the play up. It was for Stewie [Breanna Stewart] to come up, we had AC [Alysha Clark] in the corner, she was supposed to come off. I started to post up and try to get them to bait in, and pop back out so Stewie could slip,” said Loyd of the game-winning play. “They kind of went for Stewie and I came out and saw Birdie make eye contact with me and I made sure to try to keep my heels up because I didn’t want to be out of bounds. Amazingly, knocked it down.”
Though the officials would need a few minutes to confirm Loyd’s footing, she was confident from the moment the ball left her hands.
“Yeah, I knew it was good. I practice those shots all the time. We joke around with the guards, just take a lot of corner shots. We’re corner specialists. I knew once it left my hand, it looked good, my teammates were already yelling. It felt good and I’m glad I hit the shot.”
Loyd’s big shot represented something that has been true all season: she has been there for her team whenever they’ve needed her. Whether it’s a crucial basket, rebound, or stop, Loyd has been there. She may not get the consistent attention teammates Stewart and Bird receive, but Loyd is every bit as worthy.
In her sixth WNBA season, the two-time all-star is arguably at her best. Loyd is averaging 14.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. She’s also been more efficient than ever, hitting 39.5 percent of her 3-pointers on 4.8 attempts per game. Her 1.6 steals per game and 10th-overall ranking in defensive rating are reflective of the two-way effort she gives.
On any other team, Loyd might get more touches and put up even gaudier numbers. However, with so much talent on this Storm team, everyone is sacrificing personal numbers for team success. Loyd has shown a knack for knowing when it’s her moment to take over a game and needs a boost. You never wonder if she’s engaged because she’s constantly competing and looking for her next opportunity to strike.
This attitude seems inline with the Storm’s culture. For instance, it doesn’t feel like a stretch to say Alysha Clark may have an even greater role on another team either. Instead, all of this talent come together to create something great.
None of this was more apparent on Friday night. The Storm can get a key performance from someone not named “Stewart” or “Bird” on any given night. Loyd is so consistent with her play and production that you almost expect it, but that doesn’t make it less impressive.
Something else made Loyd’s shot even more impressive. Trailing by one point with 45.7 seconds remaining in the game, Loyd found an open driving lane and put up what would have been the go-ahead layup. She missed but grabbed her own rebound. Loyd worked again to get a putback attempt up and missed again. This sequence came after she was called for a foul and was involved in a jump ball.
Talk about a hard-fought victory.
Those missed shots made Loyd’s game-winner so remarkable: in having a short memory, she was able to come through for her team when they needed her most. Coach Gary Kloppenburg confirmed Loyd wasn’t the primary option on the final play, but she readied herself in case the ball came to her. Stewart was unsurprised Loyd came through for them.
“Before we were talking about the Toronto Raptors, how they had that last-second shot from the baseline and we were like, ‘We have enough time to get a shot off,” said Stewart. “And we did and Jewell made it, and that’s just a credit to her. She’s obviously an amazing player and she stepped up big for us tonight.”
Seattle trailed much of the game and never led by more than four. Los Angeles certainly would have deserved a victory that would tighten the race for first overall in the standings. The Sparks’ physicality slowed Stewart who shot just 7-of-21 from the field. Loyd also had her difficulties shooting (7-for-19), but her ability to find another way to be effective by making 9-of-11 free throw attempts kept the Storm in the game.
If the Storm are to make a deep run this season, they’re going to need players throughout the roster. Yet, as opponents continue to try to take Stewart out of the game, these other contributions become more important. When Stewart can’t go out and have her usual 20-point and seven-rebound or better performance, someone is going to need to step up.
If history is any indication, Loyd will answer the call anyway she can when the time comes.