The Seattle Storm (3-3) have won two in a row, but have lost back-to-back fourth quarters by the exact score of 22-16 and their opponent had the chance to tie at the buzzer of regulation in both cases.
On Wednesday, this happened against the Chicago Sky and the Storm were at least able to force Allie Quigley inside the 3-point arc so that her shot wouldn’t have tied the game even if it had fallen. But on Friday night against the Los Angeles Sparks, at the buzzer, Nneka Ogwumike took a three from the right corner that would have tied the game had it fallen.
Seattle led by as much as 15 on Wednesday (biggest deficit was one) and by as much as 18 on Friday (never trailed) so the contests should have been more comfortable. Instead, the Storm were forced to again address why they let a team come back on them late.
“I think it was a product of them turning up the heat a little bit and us relaxing at the same time,” said Sue Bird. “When those two things happen, it’s tough when you're the team that relaxed. Because what got us the lead was us getting stops on defense, pushing the ball, offensively having a little more aggressiveness to us. My take on it is we’re still a team that is fairly new. And so, in late-game scenarios we’re still figuring things out on how to be strategic and patient while also aggressive. Sometimes when you try to be patient you can lose some of your aggressiveness. So we’re still trying to find that balance.”
The Storm won the first quarter against the Sparks by a score of 29-16 before losing each of the three remaining frames while scoring 22, 16 and 16, respectively.
“I don’t know that you’re gonna score 30 every quarter and a team’s gonna roll over and die,” Bird said. “That's not what the WNBA is, you know it’s well-documented it’s 12 teams, 12 spots — no lead is ever safe.”
Breanna Stewart was good for 11 points in the opening frame and finished with a game-high 28 in her second game back from health and safety protocol. She was held to 13 points in her first game back. After Friday’s game she said she felt “way better” and that she didn’t even think about having missed time.
The Storm won in spite of big nights from LA’s superstars; Liz Cambage had 25 points and N. Ogwumike had 20. Seattle was missing 6-foot-6 center Mercedes Russell, who has not played yet this season due to a non-basketball injury. Russell would have given Cambage a bit more trouble.
“Liz is a tough guard, Nneka’s a tough guard,” said Storm coach Noelle Quinn. “And they kind of got busy tonight. But overall, just enjoyed our effort.
“Once again ending our game with a defensive possession showed a lot of grit.”
There is still no timeline for Russell’s return but she’s been upgraded to on-court stuff.