The Seattle Storm set a WNBA record Tuesday night with 37 assists in a crucial 111-100 road win over the Chicago Sky.
The Storm surpassed the previous high of 35, reached three times in league history according to ESPN Stats & Information research, including earlier this season by the New York Liberty.
Nearly all of the assists -- and tying the franchise record for points -- were needed in the fifth WNBA game this season where both teams reached triple-digit scoring.
Seattle led by eight, 103-95, with 1:50 remaining before Breanna Stewart's 3-pointer off a Gabby Williams feed extended the lead to double-digits and tied the record. The Storm then broke it on a Sue Bird 3-pointer assisted by Stewart in the final minute before adding a 37th assist with the win already in hand.
"When you have a team sharing the basketball like that, it's hard to beat," said acting head coach Pokey Chatman, filling in for a second consecutive game with Seattle head coach Noelle Quinn missing because of the WNBA's health and safety protocols. "That's the first thing I said when we went in the locker room. I went around and shook their hands and reminded of them that because Chicago's a really good offensive and defensive team."
Bird, the WNBA's all-time assists leader, was responsible for a team-high eight. Williams handed out seven, just the third time in her career she has had that many, in addition to reaching 20 points for the second time this season. Four of Williams' seven assists went to Stewart, a combination dating back to their UConn days Williams highlighted after the game.
"Just the way she's able to move without the ball and I'm able to find her, I think we've had a good tandem, especially tonight," she said. "It makes it so much fun. I know when I'm driving I have options. I think my teammates are finding me as well. We're finding each other really well."
All told, seven Storm players -- including all five starters -- finished with at least three assists, tying a WNBA record that had been reached five times previously. For the season, 75% of Seattle's field goals have been assisted. Although the Storm will almost certainly surpass the previous high of 72% by the 1999 Charlotte Sting, they also need to hold off the Sky, whose assist rate stands at 74% after Tuesday's game.
The win over Chicago, which still stands atop the WNBA standings with a 25-9 record, moved Seattle within one win or loss by the Washington Mystics of clinching a top-four seed and home-court advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
With the Mystics finishing the season by facing the 5-29 Indiana Fever home and away, that most likely means the Storm will need an additional victory in their final two games, Friday at the Minnesota Lynx and Sunday at the Las Vegas Aces.
"Every win is vital," said Williams. "That's all I was thinking about tonight. I was thinking about that home-court advantage. Of course it always feels nice to have a game like this, but tonight was just about what it meant for us for this road trip, for our ranking and I think for myself to see what I can do against these teams."