Seattle Storm continue to flex their depth ahead of playoffs

No Stewart, no Bird, no problem for Seattle

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Jordin Canada of the Seattle Storm shoots the ball during a game against the Phoenix Mercury on Sept. 11. (Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via GettyImages)

Despite missing Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, the Seattle Storm handled the Phoenix Mercury with ease on Friday night, winning 83-60. The team, now 18-3 on the season, extended their win streak to seven straight games and ended Phoenix’s eight-game run.

Despite already securing a top-two finish this season, the Storm did not waver in their focus against the Mercury, taking the lead early in the game and never looking back.

“These are playoff games,” Jewell Loyd said after the game. “Start getting your mind and your body ready for playoff games. We think it’s very important to go into the playoffs playing your best and we want to make sure that we get our reps and we treat everyone with a lot of respect.”

In a performance that brought back memories of last season, Jordin Canada once again proved she can run the floor just fine as Bird’s replacement. Canada finished with 13 points on 63% shooting and four assists in 20 minutes of action.

Six different players finished with double-digit points totals for Seattle in the blowout victory, highlighting the team’s depth once again. Starting in place of Stewart, Mercedes Russell played 21 minutes and scored 10 points along with six boards.

“They’re good pros — they know that if somebody goes down or is injured, then they’re there to step up,” Head Coach Gary Kloppenburg said about Canada and Russell after the game. “And I think they both started last year, so it’s nothing new to them.”

Rookie Ezi Magbegor had another strong game, going 5-of-8 from the field and finishing with 10 points and seven rebounds. Alysha Clark, a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, was effective on both ends of the floor, shooting a perfect 3-of-3 from three-point range and earning nine points and seven rebounds.

Seattle are the highest-rated defensive (and offensive) team in the WNBA this season, the Storm hustled as they have done all season, forcing Phoenix to shoot just 24.2% from the field. Clark and reigning DPOY Natasha Howard made life very difficult for the Mercury as Seattle was especially successful in shutting down Skylar Diggins-Smith and Diana Taurasi.

The win keeps Seattle atop the league standings and gives them even more momentum as they head into their last game of the regular season and into the playoffs madness. Seattle’s next and final game of the regular season is against the Las Vegas Aces, the No. 2 seed, on Sunday at 3pm ET on ABC.

For Kloppenburg, the priority will likely be on getting Stewart and Bird healthy in time for the start of the playoffs — which, for the Storm, doesn’t happen until Sept. 20 thanks to their two-round bye. Bird was listed out with a left knee injury following a collision with Satou Sabally in the team’s game against the Dallas Wings on Wednesday and Stewart missed Friday’s game due to a left foot injury.

“Their health going forward is probably the most important thing right now,” Kloppenburg said after the game.

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