The Storm insists its two-game skid, including Saturday’s 82-74 defeat to the Las Vegas Aces, isn’t cause for overreaction.
With eight games remaining, Seattle (11-3) still holds a half-game lead in the WNBA standings.
However, the Storm’s margin for error for keeping that lead with three weeks remaining in this truncated 22-game regular season is razor-thin now.
Seattle will face Indiana and Las Vegas — its past two opponents — Tuesday and Thursday, but not before taking some much-needed time off Sunday.
“We have our first off day since we got here,” said Breanna Stewart, who plans to relax near a pool at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. “And the glory of it is, we see Indy and Vegas again next week.”
Stewart and Co. desperately need a 24-hour respite after completing a grueling 10-games-in-19-days stretch in which they played every other day.
But if the Storm is going to fulfill its potential and capture the franchise’s fourth WNBA championship, then it will need a better response to Las Vegas (10-3), which appears to be a legitimate title contender.
“At this point, it’s just playing our game and getting back to our identity,” guard Jordin Canada said during a postgame Zoom call. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, it’s all about us and what we do and what we can continue to do better.
“The games that we have this season are extremely important. We just always have to keep in mind that we’re playing for something greater and getting back to us.”
And that’s the real question. Who is the Storm?
Is Seattle the high-scoring, three-point flinging defensive dynamo that crushed opponents by an average of 18 points during a recent nine-game winning streak?
Or is it the cold-shooting team that has been beat up inside in the past two outings?
In what was billed as a potential WNBA Finals preview, Las Vegas followed a similar script as Indiana and used its big front line to outscore Seattle 42-32 in the paint.
The Aces, who won the rebound battle 44-34, also enjoyed a significant free-throw disparity and sank 20 of 25 at the line while Seattle made 11 of 14.
Led by WNBA MVP candidate A’ja Wilson (23 points and 14 rebounds), Angel McCoughtry (13 points and 14 rebounds) and backup Danielle Robinson (16 points and seven assists), Las Vegas shot 44.1 percent from the field.
Stewart (29 points and 16 rebounds) was equally impressive, but the Storm needed more offensive contributions on a day when Sue Bird missed her second straight game to rest a nagging knee injury.
Natasha Howard finished with 16 points, Alysha Clark had 11 and Canada 10.
However, Jewell Loyd, who scored a career-high 35 points Thursday, tallied just three points on 1-for-11 shooting and Seattle’s bench was outscored 34-5.
“We haven’t shot the ball well from the three-point line the past several games, so that’s a major factor for us,” coach Gary Kloppenburg said, noting Seattle was 7 of 26 on three-pointers against Las Vegas and 5 of 21 versus Indiana. “You gotta knock down some threes.”
Seattle, which trailed 19-18 after the first period, missed 10 of 12 three-pointers in the first half and trailed 45-29 at the break.
It was the lowest scoring half of the season for the Storm, which essentially lost the game in the second period when Las Vegas outscored Seattle 26-11.
“If you have a normal quarter, maybe we’re down 5-6 instead of double digits,” Kloppenburg said. “This team, you can’t make mistakes.”
Las Vegas built a 21-point lead (56-35) midway in the third and seemed poised for a blowout before the Storm rallied in the fourth.
Sami Whitcomb capped a 17-4 run with a three-pointer to cut Seattle’s deficit to five points (79-74) with 33.7 seconds remaining.
The Aces hit 3 of 4 free throws to close the game while Seattle missed a pair of three-pointers at the end.
Seattle’s remaining schedule is considered the most difficult in the WNBA, which includes games against five of the top six teams in the standings.
“You never panic,” Kloppenburg said. “This league will humble you no matter who you are. Everybody is very good. You’re getting everybody’s best effort. We’ll take a look at the film. We really haven’t had any chance to practice and I feel like we’ve had slippage on both ends of the floor just because of that.
“We haven’t been able to do anything practice-wise lately. This week we have an extra day, we’ll be able to get in and address some of these issues that we feel we need to get better at going into these next series of games.”
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