Storm get defensive, move back atop the AP power poll

Sports

Storm forward Breanna Stewart, center, loses the ball under pressure from Connecticut Sun defenders Emma Cannon, back left, Brionna Jones (42) and Jasmine Thomas (5) in the second half of a WNBA basketball game Sunday, June 13, 2021, at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day via AP)

NEW YORK (AP) — There were questions about the defending champion Seattle Storm’s defense coming into the season with stalwarts Alysha Clark and Natasha Howard no longer on the roster.

After a sluggish start the Storm have found some answers and are becoming more cohesive on defense this season.

“We understand that this team isn’t going to look like the teams of the past as far as defensively,” first-year Storm coach Noelle Quinn said. “So, we’re trying to figure out the strength of our players in those defensive schemes. I continue to say this, that with the limited training camp you can’t gain that defensive chemistry, and what we’re seeing is a development of that.”

The Storm were giving up 88 points in their first five games but are allowing just 75 per contest since. The only time they gave up more than 75 points in that stretch was the 105-102 overtime win over Dallas.

“Maybe we don’t have one lock up defender like Alysha Clark, but what we have is a team defense where we’re rotating, we’re on the string and we’re helping one another,” Quinn said. “And I think that’s really what you’re seeing, the culmination of just a team effort, and that’s what our defense has to be this year. It is not going to be one or two players, it’s going to be a legit one through 12 coming in and making sure that we’re working together to stop a great player.”

With it’s 3-0 week, Seattle moved back into the top spot in the AP power poll.

POWER POLL

This week’s WNBA poll:

1. Seattle (10-2): The Storm cruised through an eastern swing, sweeping a pair of games from Atlanta and beating Connecticut. They’ll close out a five-game road trip with two games in Indiana.

2. Las Vegas (8-3): The Aces had a quiet week with just one game — a victory over Dallas during which A’ja Wilson dominated on both ends of the floor.

3. Connecticut (8-3): The Sun will be missing coach Curt Miller as he traveled home to Pennsylvania to tend to a medical situation with a family member. In his absence Brandi Poole will serve as acting head coach with Chris Koclanes assisting.

4. New York (6-4): The injury bug has hit New York with Sabrina Ionescu (ankle tendinitis), Natasha Howard (knee) sidelined. They still have Betnijah Laney though, who continues to have a stellar season, scoring in double figures in all but one game.

5. Dallas (5-6): Consecutive wins over Phoenix and a competitive loss to Las Vegas finished off a successful road trip for the Wings. The Dallas bench has been playing well. In those three games Wing reserves outscored their opponents’ bench 30-12 on average.

6. Phoenix (5-6): The Mercury are in a three-game skid despite the strong play of Brittney Griner, who is averaging 25 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in the losses.

7. Minnesota (4-5): The Lynx lost Natalie Achonwa (MCL sprain right knee) and Aerial Powers (right thumb) indefinitely. Powers had just come back from a hamstring strain. The Lynx already were missing Jessica Shephard (adductor strain) and Rennia Davis (stress fracture left foot).

8. Atlanta (5-6): Solid play from Tiffany Hayes and Courtney Williams helped the Dream snap a four-game skid. Atlanta plays three of its next four at home.

9. Washington (4-6): Tina Charles will miss the Mystics next game against Atlanta on Thursday to attend the premiere of her film ‘Game Changer’ at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The film tells the story of Tanya DePass, an African-American gamer, determined to make the gaming industry more inclusive.

10. Chicago (4-7): Candace Parker returned from her ankle injury to help the Sky win consecutive games against the Fever. A tougher test awaits this week with games against Minnesota and Connecticut.

11. Los Angeles (4-5): The Sparks hope to end a two-game skid when they host Phoenix for a pair of games. Los Angeles will be missing Te’a Cooper for Wednesday’s contest as she was suspended a game by the league for leaving the sideline during an on-court altercation in the team’s game at Minnesota. Cooper is averaging 9.4 points.

12. Indiana (1-11): The Fever may be hard-pressed to end a seven-game skid this week as they host Seattle for a pair of games before visiting Washington.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

Breanna Stewart of Seattle had a strong week averaging 18.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists to help the Storm go 3-0. Other players receiving votes included Betnijah Laney of New York, Tina Charles of Washington and A’ja Wilson of Las Vegas.

GET OUT THE VOTE:

Tuesday marks the start of All-Star voting for a game that will be played on July 14 between the U.S. Olympic squad and a team of WNBA All-Stars.

GAME OF THE WEEK:

Liberty at Sparks, Sunday. Nearly 25 years to the day that the WNBA tipped off its first game, the two franchises that played in that contest will meet again. New York will be finishing off a four-game western swing while Los Angeles will be completing a thre-game homestand.

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More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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