ROSEMONT, Ill. — Playing on the road has been an ordeal for the Storm early this WNBA season.
But Tuesday night at Chicago, Seattle made it look easy for the most part in an 80-76 victory over the Sky.
Seattle came into the game with a 1-5 record away from home, and was looking for its first two-game win streak. The Storm found out just before game time that Chicago was missing two of its best players in Elena Delle Donne and Jessica Breland.
“Just right before the game I knew that,” said Storm coach Brian Agler. “We didn’t know in regards to our preparation. Defensively, Delle Donne, that’s a different type of player you’re putting on the floor, so we would have had to give her a lot of attention.”
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Delle Donne (out with a flare-up of Lyme disease) ranks second in scoring in the WNBA at 22.3 points a game and Breland (out with a leg injury) came in averaging nearly 12 points and nine rebounds a game.
The Sky still had Epiphanny Prince, who led Chicago with 18 points, but the Storm countered with Tanisha Wright, who topped Seattle with 17 points, including six consecutive free throws in the final 34 seconds.
“It feels good anytime we can get a win, especially on the road,” Wright said. “We can use this as a steppingstone.”
After dominating the first half and taking a 42-30 lead into the break, Seattle had to withstand a strong effort by the Sky in the third quarter. Chicago trailed 58-45 before going on a 9-2 run to close to six points with 52 seconds left.
Markeisha Gatling scored nine consecutive points for the Sky to give the 3,958 spectators at the All State Arena some hope.
But the Storm responded with a 6-0 run.
The Sky fought back again in the fourth quarter. It closed to 71-67 with 2:34 to play on a layup by Tamera Young before Seattle’s Noelle Quinn fired in a three-pointer from the left wing to stretch the Storm’s lead to seven points.
“Tonight we shot the three-point shot very well,” Agler said of his team’s 9-for-20 effort from beyond the arc.
Seattle, which came into the game with the league’s second-stingiest defense, put the clamps on the Sky (5-4) when it had to.
“Our defense is something we always rely on and I think it was there for us, especially at the end when we needed it,” said Storm guard Sue Bird, who scored 12 points to go with two steals and a team-high six assists. “We had a lead and knew we didn’t want to give it up. I do think we could have closed better. We gave them a little smell of it, which you don’t want to give a team that has a player like Epiphany Prince.”
Camille Little added 13 points for the Storm (4-6), which scored a season high in points.
Agler sees something good in his team as the Storm continues a four-game road trip on Wednesday night at Indiana.
“We didn’t get off to the greatest start this year, but we’ve hung in there and steadily improved,” Agler said.