The WNBA is back from its Olympics break, and if Thursday night’s Commissioner’s Cup was any indication, the Seattle Storm look like the team to beat. Seattle, led by a stat sheet-stuffing 17 point-night from Breanna Stewart, smoked the Connecticut Sun, 79-57, to reopen the WNBA season and snag a $30,000 prize per player.
The game was the first of its kind, broadcast on Amazon Prime Video and held at a neutral site, the newly named Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix. The Storm and Sun earned the chance to compete for the Cup by way of their regular-season record in 10 conference games, though this final contest counted only for prize money and not in the standings.
The Cup began relatively close, but Seattle’s ruthless efficiency on offense soon won out. Stewart, the MVP of the game and winner of her own additional $5,000 reward, led the Storm with 15 first-quarter points. She didn’t miss a beat after earning MVP of the Tokyo Olympics women’s basketball tournament.
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) August 13, 2021
Breanna Stewart going off in her first game back fresh off a gold medal
15 points on 5/6 shooting in 10 minutes 😳
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 13, 2021
On the other side, Jonquel Jones, who is vying for league MVP alongside Stewart after leading the Sun to a 14-6 record during the first half of the season, made a few dazzling plays in the open court for Connecticut.
Ain’t no fadeaway like a JJ fadeaway. pic.twitter.com/FUQnOVYqIh
— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) August 13, 2021
In the second half, Jones’ shot didn’t fall quite as easily, and the Storm turned their defense intensity up a few notches. As a result, the tempo sped up to favor Seattle, and they were able to generate open jump shots and layups repeatedly.
In particular, once the Sun’s defense keyed into Stewart, she started dishing passes around the court and setting up teammates for great looks. She only scored two points after the first but added three assists, four steals, and three blocks.
Though Connecticut was favored to win heading into the game, it was the Storm who came out of the gates looking like the league’s best side. Just as they did repeatedly in the Bubble last year, Seattle was able to spread their out, play fast, and turn defense into offense. When they do that, it’s time to cross your fingers and hope they miss.
In the first-ever WNBA Commissioner’s Cup, fans were treated to a dominant showing from the Storm dynasty that has defined the past four seasons, setting off a stretch run in which they clearly have pole position.