The Storm recovered from another double-digit deficit in the first quarter, but unlike their season opener two nights earlier, Seattle stumbled in the final minutes due to late-game miscues, shoddy offensive execution and A’ja Wilson’s dominant performance.
“Just not as sharp in that time of the game,” coach Noelle Quinn said after the Storm’s first setback, an 85-74 defeat against the Las Vegas Aces on Sunday at Michelob Ultra Arena.
It was a stark reversal offensively for Seattle (1-1), which enjoyed a raucous win on opening night while scoring 97 points in a 23-point blowout win.
Aside from the third quarter, the Storm never got going offensively while shooting 35.5% from the field, including 11 of 34 (32.4%) on three-pointers.
“Offensively, when we struggle, we’ve got to hang our hats on defense and rebounding,” Quinn said. “We weren’t locked in on the schemes at the end. The ball bouncing a certain way and just not coming up with those 50-50 balls.”
Seattle trailed 26-14 late in the first period and the deficit would have been larger if not for Breanna Stewart, who scored nine of her game-high 21 points in the quarter. She connected on 4 of 6 shots while the rest of the Storm were 3 of 14 in the first.
Down 39-33 at halftime, the Storm wrestled away momentum in the third quarter while outscoring the Aces 26-19.
Reserve guard Epiphanny Prince (11 points) tied the score at 52-52 with 1:34 left in the third with a lineup that included backups Briann January, Stephanie Talbot, Reshanda Gray and Jantel Lavender.
Minutes later, Lavender gave Seattle its first lead since the opening minutes with a layup to go ahead 57-56 with 16.7 seconds left in the third.
The Storm led 59-58 to start of the fourth.
“Our depth is going to be – as the season goes on – what we’re going to really take advantage of against other teams,” Stewart said. “Tonight, they came in and they had us up 1 in the fourth.”
Led by Wilson’s 20 points and 19 from Jackie Young, Las Vegas’ starters outscored their Seattle counterparts 79-51.
Former Washington Huskies star Kelsey Plum finished with 18 points, seven assists and three steals to offset five turnovers, while Chelsea Gray had 12 points and Dearica Hamby 10 for the Aces.
“They do have a lot of options and so do we,” Quinn said. “I don’t want to discount what we have. They’re playing at a high level, all of them. Their intensity and energy that they all bring, they all pose a threat on the floor at all times.”
Stewart received plenty of support from Jewell Loyd, who had 19 points on 6-for-14 shooting, but the other three starters combined for 11.
Ezi Magbegor, who is starting in place of injured Mercedes Russell, tallied eight points, five rebounds and four blocks, but missed most of the fourth due to fatigue. Sue Bird finished with seven assists and three points while Gabby Williams was scoreless in 21 minutes.
“The starters, we have to be better,” Stewart said. “That’s really it.”
The Storm lamented a two-minute stretch late in the fourth when the game slipped away and Las Vegas pushed its 76-72 lead to 80-72 with 1:37 left. During the decisive stretch, Seattle committed three turnovers, including two by Bird that led directly to baskets.
“When you look at the turnovers, we only had 11 for the game,” Quinn said. “But it was just the timely ones and the Aces capitalized off those.”
Loyd added: “Down the stretch, we just had some bad turnovers. The communication got a little sticky on offense.”
Las Vegas converted 10 of 17 shots in the fourth while Seattle was 7 of 17, including 1 of 5 from deep.
“We got the shots we wanted,” said Loyd, who scored nine points in the fourth on 4-of-5 shooting. “Those are shots we know we can make nine out of 10 (times).
“It’s the second game of the season. We’re going to learn from this and get better. For us, I think every time we shoot it’s going to go in. I’ll live with those shots.”
The Storm wrap up their two-game road trip Wednesday with a matchup against the Phoenix Mercury.