Forced to play with Breanna Stewart in foul trouble, the Storm saw a three-game home winning streak snapped, 67-64, to the Dream.
Almost everything went wrong for the Storm for 3½ quarters Sunday, and yet Seattle still had a chance to salvage a win in a game that was otherwise a complete disaster.
Down three points to the Atlanta Dream, Breanna Stewart got a look at a three-pointer but stepped in for a 12-footer with 7.3 seconds remaining that clanged off the rim.
Seattle had one last chance to tie, but Elizabeth Williams deflected Sue Bird’s inbound pass and Stewart’s desperate 25-footer at the buzzer never came close, capping a wild 67-64 defeat in front of 6,345 at KeyArena.
Chicago @ Storm, 7 p.m.
“It was a basketball game that was anything, but smooth,” said Storm coach Dan Hughes who added to Seattle’s chaotic performance with a verbal tirade at officials that resulted in his first technical foul of the season. “I did appreciate our efforts to put us back in it and put us back in it and put us back in it.
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“But … our strengths weren’t necessarily our strengths today.”
Atlanta, which entered the game second in the WNBA by allowing 79.1 points per game, shut down one of the most prolific offenses in the league.
Seattle is the best three-point shooting team in the WNBA, and ranks second in scoring.
But the Storm finished 27 points below its season average while making 4 of 26 from behind the arc – season lows for points and three-pointers.
“We didn’t finish well from anywhere on the court,” Hughes said. “We didn’t finish well from the free-throw line (10 of 17). We didn’t finish well from three and we didn’t finish well inside. And defensively we weren’t bad, but it put a lot of pressure on that phase.”
Throughout the game Hughes engaged in a running dialogue with the referees and his emotions reached a tipping point early in the second quarter when they handed forward Natasha Howard a three-second violation, which negated a much-needed layup.
The Storm coach exploded from his seat and got face to face with official Karleene Tobin before assistant Gary Kloppenburg stepped in and ushered Hughes back to the sideline.
Atlanta received more fouls (21) than Seattle (20) and the Storm shot more free throws than the Dream (8 for 11), but Hughes’ dustup highlighted Seattle’s frustrations with the officials.
“They didn’t give me any explanation,” Stewart said when asked about the offciating. “There’s only 12 teams in the WNBA. Obviously you know how certain teams play. I don’t know. It’s up to the refs.”
The Storm’s offensive dysfunction was a result of Stewart, the league’s third leading scorer at 21.5 points a game, playing a career-low 19½ minutes because of foul trouble.
Stewart collected her third foul with 7:50 remaining in the second quarter and went to the bench for the rest of the half. Seattle trailed 39-31 at halftime.
With Stewart out, Howard carried Seattle with 15 points and a career-high 15 rebounds for her second double-double this season. Jewell Loyd added 14 points.
Atlanta (5-3) held off Seattle (6-3) thanks to its dynamic duo of Tiffany Hayes (23 points) and Angel McCoughtry (15 points and 10 rebounds).
Things took a turn for the worse for the Storm midway in the third quarter when Stewart picked up two fouls in a span of 38 seconds. The 6-foot-4 forward plowed into Jessica Breland for her fifth, forcing her to the bench for the rest of the quarter.
Four of Stewart’s five fouls were on the offensive end.
“It was really tough,” said Stewart who finished with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting, three rebounds and five turnovers. “I wasn’t able to play consistently until the fourth quarter. I don’t know if there was much that I was doing differently as far as the way I play, but the refs saw something. It’s tough.
“We had to do some different lineups from the jump and we didn’t have the energy that we needed. We still had a chance to fight back. It’s kind of frustrating, but I take the blame for it. I shouldn’t have had five fouls.”
Stewart returned with 8:29 left in the fourth and Seattle trailing 56-46.
With its leading scorer back on the court, the Storm went on a 15-4 run capped by Loyd, whose three-pointer that put Seattle up 61-60 with 2:34 left. It was the Storm’s first lead since the first quarter.
“We knew at some point we were going to have an opportunity to really get into them and play, and that happened in the fourth quarter,” Stewart said. “You have to like our fight. The way we fought back.”
But Hayes countered with three straight layups that put Atlanta ahead 66-61.
Stewart answered with a traditional three-point play, but afterward the Storm star lamented the three-pointer she didn’t take in the final seconds.
“We were down three,” she said. “I should have shot the three. … I messed up.”