Seattle – Jewell Loyd of Seattle was unselfish in the deciding game of the WNBA semifinals, giving up her spot on the floor at crunch time.
Her decision appeared to be rewarded in Game 1 of the Finals.
"It's amazing how many times when you're thinking right like she [is], and you're unselfish like she was in Game 5, how you are rewarded the next time," Storm coach Dan Hughes said.
Loyd was 9-for-12 shooting and scored 23 points, and league MVP Breanna Stewart added 20 points as Seattle opened the best-of-five Finals with an 89-76 victory over the Washington Mystics on Friday night.
The first Finals game in Seattle in eight years featured a dominant performance by the home team, led by the guard who watched most of the fourth quarter of Seattle's Game 5 win over Phoenix on Tuesday. Loyd made the suggestion to Hughes not to change Seattle's lineup during that fourth quarter against Phoenix, which meant she stayed on the bench.
And instead of sulking about her struggles for most of the semifinal series, Loyd became the leader of an efficient offensive performance from the league's top team during the regular season.
"It helps when you're playing with people who are unselfish," she said, "and set you up and keep giving you the ball. That's what makes this team special. Everyone is willing to make that extra pass regardless if you miss 100 shots."
Loyd scored 10 consecutive points during the second quarter, when Seattle took control with a 16-4 run, and combined with Stewart to score 20 of Seattle's first 22 points of the third quarter. Seattle led by 27 in the third quarter and 26 early in the fourth quarter.
Seattle shot 53 percent, outscored Washington 46-28 in the paint and had 21 assists on 33 field goals. Sue Bird, the hero of Game 5, scored just four points, but her scoring was not needed this night. Natasha Howard, a former Lynx player, added 17 points, going 7-for-8.
"We were a step behind — they looked quicker than us," Washington coach Mike Thibault said. "They made us pay for every defensive mistake for a stretch, and we made enough of them to help them."
Washington's first Finals game in franchise history was mostly forgettable. Elena Delle Donne (10 points) and Kristi Toliver (five) both struggled shooting. Ariel Atkins led the Mystics with 23 points.
"Our whole offense was a little bit stagnant," Delle Donne said.
"Instead of getting the ball and moving it side to side, we were hanging on to it on one side and staring at each other."