Natasha Howard is the unsung hero of Seattle’s success

After the electric elimination showdown between the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury, Twitter went ablaze with compliments for Sue Bird after her fiery fourth-quarter showing where she scored 14 of her 20 points to secure a 94-84 victory.

In Game 2 of the WNBA Finals as the Storm took on the Washington Mystics, it was Breanna Stewart that caught the attention of the basketball world with her valiant performance where the newly crowned MVP filled up the stat sheet with her 25 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Jewell Loyd also received positive feedback for her performance in the Finals opener when she recorded 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field and 3-of-3 shooting from the perimeter.

And it’s all justified. These players have been instrumental in Seattle’s success in the regular season and in the playoffs. But in all the banter, Natasha Howard’s name is often forgotten yet her impact cannot be understated.

Anchor on defense

Howard is an important component in Seattle’s defense. The power forward owns the boards while serving as a competent on ball defender. She averages 7.5 rebounds per game, the most of any player in the Finals while also averaging a cool 1.3 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.

In Game 3 against Phoenix, she notched a double-double of 19 points and ten rebounds to add to her four steals. In the elimination game of the semifinals, she recorded three blocks and nine rebounds to add to her seven blocks. In the second contest of the Finals against the Mystics, the 2017 Sixth Woman of the Year registered 13 boards while blocking a shot and forcing a turnover.

Hitting the scoreboard

Howard is nobody’s prolific scorer but, occasionally, she can be a spark for the offense. She has had five games where she finished in double-digit scoring. In the opener of the Finals, the 2017 WNBA Champion posted 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting from the field and recorded a plus/minus of +27.

She was the engine behind Seattle’s hot start as she opened up the scoring for the team with a layup and in the subsequent Storm possession, she assisted the team’s next field goal. The Florida State product was also active on the other end of the floor as she blocked Ariel Atkins’ shot at the halfway mark of the opening quarter. She finished the first quarter with ten points, the most out of all players in that quarter.

In the second contest against the Mystics, she assisted the first bucket and in the subsequent play, she hit a pull-up jumper. Later in the quarter, Howard elevated to block Tianna Hawkins’ driving layup and a few possessions later, she assisted Stewart’s 21-foot jumper for Seattle to establish an eight-point lead with four minutes left in the first quarter.

During the waning seconds of the third, Howard recovered the ball after Jordin Clark missed her jumper. In the following play, the 6-foot-2 forward used her length to tip in the shot to put Seattle within three points before the fourth quarter began. When she was on the floor, Seattle outscored Washington by nine points per 100 possessions, the highest mark by any starter in the game.

And as the series continues, expect to see more from the resilient and talented veteran. Game 3 of the WNBA Finals is live on KS1 from 02:00 CAT.

All statistics sourced on September 11 and provided by and unless otherwise stated.

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