EVERETT – Late-game miscues tripped up the Storm in its past two outings, which led to a pair of heartbreaking defeats.
As fate would have it, Seattle played another nail-biter Friday night against the visiting Atlanta Dream that was decided in the final seconds.
This time, Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd each scored six points and combined on the final 12 points for the Storm, which beat Atlanta 91-88 to sweep the regular-season series with three straight wins.
“Another grind-it-out game and a hard-fought game,” coach Noelle Quinn said. “We had a lot of contributions from everyone.
“At the end of the game it was a couple of great players making great plays for us.”
On a night when MVP candidate Breanna Stewart was held to a season-low nine points, the other All-Star members of the Storm’s Big Three took over at the end.
Seattle led 79-78 when Bird and Loyd went back and forth with Atlanta’s Courtney Williams, who was nearly unstoppable and finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists – all game highs.
Bird drained a three-pointer followed by Loyd’s short jumper that gave the Storm an 84-78 lead and a short-lived separation.
Atlanta scored two baskets to pull within 84-83 when Bird drained another three-pointer – her fifth in the game for 15 points and an 87-83 lead.
Williams answered with a three-pointer, then Loyd scored on a putback followed by another dagger from Williams that cut Seattle’s lead to 89-88 with 29 seconds left.
Following a timeout, Quinn gave the ball to Loyd who let the game clock wind down before driving around center Cheyenne Parker for a left-handed contested layup and a 91-88 lead with 6.1 seconds left.
Loyd didn’t take a field goal in the first half and briefly left the game in the third quarter due to a sprained left ankle.
“I tweaked it a little bit,” said Loyd, who finished with 10 points. “But luckily I have great teammates that got me ready to get back in there and had confidence in me. I made a couple of shots down the stretch on it.”
During a timeout before Atlanta’s final possession, Quinn told the Storm to intentionally foul and prevent the Dream from tying the game with a three-pointer.
However, Williams hurried up a three-pointer over Jordin Canada that rattled off, and Bird secured the rebound for the win.
“Courtney went so fast that I’m actually glad that we didn’t get our hand in there because that three was going up,” Quinn said. “That was the plan, but it ended up working out in our favor today.”
The Storm beat the Dream behind the arc, at the line and with its bench.
Seattle canned a season-high 14 three-pointers on 22 attempts, while Atlanta was 8 for 20 from long range. The Storm also connected on 17 of 22 free throws while the Dream was 6 of 8 at the foul line.
And Seattle received a season-high 39 points from its bench, including 12 from Ezi Magbegor and 10 from Stephanie Talbot.
Mercedes Russell also added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Storm, which improved to 13-4.
Crystal Bradford tallied 17 points for Atlanta (6-10).
“It was great to see the progression,” Quinn said. “We got stops, crucial stops, and then we were able to capitalize on our stops with some very good offensive execution. That’s been our focus for the past two days.”