If Storm guard Sue Bird knew the solution to her team’s fourth-quarter struggles, she said she would be a “bajillionaire.”
But she is not, and the Storm has been outscored, 133-97, in its past six fourth quarters.
“That’s kind of unbelievable,” guard Temeka Johnson said about the deficit.
Seattle has won the battle of the final period only four times this year, on its way to a 6-10 record and a spot at the bottom of the WNBA’s Western Conference.
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In its last game, the Storm put together a third-quarter offensive burst, hitting 6 of 8 shots to pull within one point of Los Angeles on Tuesday. But a five-minute offensive drought in the final period doomed Seattle, and the Storm allowed the Sparks to build their biggest lead of the game at 13 points.
In road games against Indiana and San Antonio, the Storm was outscored by 12 in each fourth quarter. When San Antonio came to Seattle, the Storm did have a plus-two margin in the final quarter, but was outscored by five in overtime.
Seattle coach and general manager Brian Agler said the late-game struggles have to do with a variety of issues, including poor shooting, turnovers at key moments and giving up second shots and free throws.
All of those problems can stem from an undesired mentality, according to Johnson.
“It’s just that everybody needs to have a different mindset, possibly. That’s it,” she said. “We’ve all played basketball mostly for our entire lives, so you can’t ask anybody to just change the style of basketball they play overnight. Our mindset just has to change.”
The team’s film session before Thursday’s practice ran an hour over the scheduled time, so it’s clear that conditioning on the mental side is just as important as conditioning on the court at this point.
“Sometimes you can learn more from watching than from actually doing,” Bird said. “We can’t go out there and have … three-hour practices. You’ve got to stay fresh at some point. So we watched film and we talked about a lot, then we got out on the court.”
Seattle will host defending WNBA champion Minnesota at 7 p.m. Friday. The Storm beat the Lynx in their first meeting, on June 6 at KeyArena, by rallying from a seven-point deficit and outscoring Minnesota 21-11 to win, 65-62. Friday’s game will be a chance for Seattle to bridge the gap between “close game” and “win.”
Although the Storm is 2-4 during that six-game stretch of being outscored 133-97 in the fourth period, the team takes solace in being right there until the end. Seattle has not been in a game decided by more than eight points since May 30. Agler says that having that many close games will help the Storm.
“It’s your goal going into a game to put yourself in a position to win,” Agler said. “We’re accomplishing that aspect of it. Now it’s to the point where we want to find ways to be successful in the guts of the game.”
• Guard Tanisha Wright, averaging 10.6 points, is day-to-day with a bone bruise to her right knee. She will be a game-time decision against Minnesota.
• Seattle is 26-26 against the Lynx, including 18-8 at home.