TULSA, Okla. — Seattle will be more than glad to see the friendly confines of KeyArena once again this week.
The Storm completed a four-game road swing Sunday afternoon while seeing their road mark drop to 3-7 after an 85-79 loss to Tulsa in WNBA action before a crowd of 4,141.
And once Seattle (5-8) returns home, where it has only played three times this season, coach Brian Agler knows just what his team needs after the Storm’s 2-2 split on the four-game trip.
“Practice,” he said. “We have been on the road so much. We need practice time. Our defense is not what we need it to be right now.”
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Against the Shock (4-5), both Seattle’s defense and offense wilted down the stretch.
Seattle did not score a field goal in the final five minutes of the game and watched a seven-point lead with 6:29 remaining wither away as Tulsa finished on an 18-5 run.
The victory for Tulsa was its fourth straight after opening the season with five losses. All four wins for the Shock have come at home.
Skylar Diggins, the No. 2 pick in the 2013 draft, scored 12 of her game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Shock’s late-game rally.
After trailing by nine points in the third quarter, Seattle closed the period by outscoring Tulsa 14-6 to trail just 60-59 entering the final quarter.
Sue Bird, who had 12 points, ignited the rally by notching a three-pointer and a jumper from the left wing.
Tanisha Wright, who finished with a season-high 24 points — narrowly missing her career-high of 25 — then opened the fourth quarter by connecting on a three-pointer to give Seattle a 62-60 lead.
The lead was the Storm’s first since 36-34 late in the first half.
Storm reserve Temeka Johnson, who played for Tulsa two years ago, connected on a pair of three-pointers over the next four minutes and a Wright basket with 5:09 to play gave Seattle a 74-67 advantage.
But Wright’s two-pointer would be the final field goal for Seattle.
Diggins connected on a three-pointer and Glory Johnson added a drive to the basket to slice Seattle’s lead to just two points.
With the Shock trailing 77-74, Diggins hit a basket with 3:20 remaining to pull the home team to 77-76. She then followed with a traditional three-point play to give Tulsa the lead for good at 79-77 with 3:12 remaining.
Two baskets underneath by Courtney Paris upped Tulsa’s lead to 83-77 with 1:59 to play. Seattle got no closer than four after that.
“We just have to get better down the stretch,” said Wright, who hit 7 of her 11 field-goal attempts and was 9 of 10 from the free-throw line in pacing the Storm attack.
“We just can’t be a team to have meltdowns in the final three minutes of a game.”
Agler said some defensive breakdowns in the final stages of the game hurt the Storm.
“We couldn’t guard the pick and rolls they had,” Agler said. “We were also giving up too many second shots.”
Tulsa had a 17-6 cushion in second-chance points, thanks to 14 offensive rebounds. Meanwhile, Seattle had only five offensive boards.
Paris and Glory Johnson had six offensive rebounds apiece and helped Tulsa to a commanding 36-23 edge on the boards. The two combined for 25 (Johnson 13, Paris 12) rebounds.
Seattle opened the game hitting 62.5 percent from the floor in grabbing a 24-17 edge after one quarter. Wright had eight points in the opening quarter while Shekinna Stricklen came off the bench to hit on a pair of three-pointers to pace Seattle early.
But Tulsa bounced back to tie the score at 32 midway through the second quarter on back-to-back baskets by Paris and took a 41-39 advantage into halftime.
Bird finished with three assists and is seven shy of 2,000 for her career. She is attempting to join Ticha Penicheiro as the only WNBA players to surpass the 2,000-assist milestone.
Seattle opens a two-game homestand Thursday with a 7 p.m. matchup against San Antonio. The Storm hosts Washington on Sunday.