If Natasha Howard was distracted, you certainly could not tell by how she began Sunday’s basketball game.
Howard, the Seattle Storm All-Star forward, scored 10 of her team’s first 20 points, one day after her wife, Jacqueline Howard, made domestic-abuse allegations against her via Twitter.
Howard helped the Storm start fast, and Seattle led from start to finish in a 78-69 victory over the New York Liberty at Alaska Airlines Arena, giving the team back-to-back victories after losing three consecutive home games.
The Storm got good production throughout the lineup, with Crystal Langhorne coming off the bench to score a team-high 19. She made a career-best four three-pointers on six attempts. Point guard Jordin Canada had nine points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Howard, who would not comment after the game Sunday, scored 14 and set the early tone. Her three-pointer gave Seattle a 20-8 lead with 4:20 left in the first quarter, then she raced down the court to make a steal under the New York basket, eliciting one of the loudest cheers of the night.
Storm coach Dan Hughes was asked what it said about Howard that she came into the game seemingly very focused.
“She’s an All-Star, that’s what it shows,” Hughes said succinctly.
The early hole was too much for the Liberty to overcome.
The Storm (10-8) built a 41-21 lead late in the second quarter before the Liberty went on a 9-2 run to make it 43-30 at halftime.
The Storm ended any remaining suspense with a 16-0 run to go ahead 64-37 with 1:31 left in the third.
Seattle led by 20 midway through the fourth quarter before New York finished on a 15-4 run to make the final score more respectable.
Langhorne became the second consecutive reserve to lead the team in scoring after Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis scored 18 in a victory over Dallas on Friday.
Langhorne, a 6-foot-2 forward/center, entered the season having made eight total three-pointers in 11 WNBA seasons. She is 10 of 22 from three-point range this season.
“I didn’t go overseas (in the offseason), so I had a lot of time to work on my game,” Langhorne said. “Dan (Hughes) told me to work on my three-pointers.”
That work has paid off.
“You’ve got to call attention to Crystal Langhorne,” Hughes said. “That was nice to have that element (three-point shooting) on the floor today. The other thing that jumps out to me is Jordin Canada. The stat line is pretty amazing. Almost a triple-double.”
Kia Nurse scored 19 points to lead the Liberty (7-10). Tina Charles, the Liberty’s leading scorer at 18.4 points a game entering Sunday, was held to nine points on 2-for-15 shooting from the field.
“We worked at it,” Hughes said of the defense on Charles. “We worked really hard and we had a lot aggressive congestion to her.”
Eleven days earlier, the Liberty beat the Storm 84-83 at Alaska Airlines Arena. It was much different this time.
“We had better energy the whole game,” Canada said.