Seattle Storm forward Gabby Williams saved the flashiest for last Thursday, capping a 16-point, nine-rebound, four-assist and three-steal performance with a spin move to the basket.
Unfortunately for the Storm, it was indeed the last. After Williams knotted the game at 83, the Storm never recovered from Natisha Hiedeman’s three-pointer with 2:42 left in the game and the visitors fell, 88-83.
Seattle star Breanna Stewart’s bids were off the mark. Three turnovers didn’t help, and a pair of Courtney Williams free throws put it out of reach.
“I don’t like the fact that Stewie didn’t get the calls that were needed, especially in the paint. She had two hands on her, wrapping her,” Seattle coach Noelle Quinn said. “I think she needs to get a lot more respect when it comes to the physicality she gets on a nightly basis.
“I’ll live or die with the best player in the world taking those shots. I thought she got clean looks, but also I thought she was getting bumped a little bit in the paint.”
The Sun tightened their hold on third place and clinched a playoff spot. The Storm (18-11) sit in fourth place with seven games left in the regular season.
On “Sue Bird Day” in Connecticut, as declared by Gov. Ned Lamont before the game, Bird kicked off the festivities with a slick three and a team-high 11 first-half points. Four of five in the starting lineup — Bird, Williams, Stewart and Tina Charles — were former University of Connecticut Huskies.
In her final regular-season trip to Connecticut before she retires, Bird had 14 points and seven assists. Before the game in front of a sellout crowd, Bird was gifted a “specially curated” set of books from her sister, who owns an independent bookstore in Old Greenwich, and a bottle of wine from 2002, the year she was drafted out of UConn.
“I feel like the fans look at us like family. They stay with us, through our careers,” Bird said. “It’s something that I treasure, something that I’ve always really enjoyed every time I came back here. Tonight was a perfect way to end that.
“I would have preferred a win, but I’ll take it.”
Along with Jewell Loyd, the Storm starting lineup finished in double-digit points and had a shooting percentage at or above 50%.
The Storm led 20-10 on Stewart’s driving layup. The Sun charged back, helped along by some sloppy play from the visitors.
In the first half, the Storm took 13 personal fouls to Connecticut’s four. Stewart picked up her third foul with 2:42 to go and the Sun used her absence as an opening to go 9-3 the rest of the way.
Stewart still led Seattle with 17 points. Charles’ 10 rebounds topped the Storm.
The Sun flirted with a double-digit lead several times in the second half but the Storm never let them get too far away. Charles, who sailed past 7,000 career points in the Storm’s last game against the Atlanta Dream on Sunday, found Stewart for a tying three before Williams’ spin move.
“I think I hold myself back in these instances,” Williams said of her overall performance. “Seeing myself do it, and seeing a few baskets go in, it’s like, ‘all right, now I can find my rhythm.’”
The Storm have dropped three of four overall and absorbed a season series sweep. The Sun (20-9) took the first two games, 93-86 in Seattle and 82-71 in Connecticut.
“We just didn’t make the plays and they did,” Bird said. “Games do come down to final possessions, don’t get me wrong, and you want to be able to come through in those moments. But if you look at the game as a whole, I think it was more turnovers, points off turnovers, because those are controllables.”