Of course, Jewell Loyd was going to get the ball.
Down two points with 17.6 seconds left, the Storm gave her a chance to win or tie the game. It didn’t matter if the three-time WNBA All-Star appeared exhausted and missed her previous seven shots.
Without superstars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, who were held out of their second straight game to rest, Loyd scored a career-high tying 35 points while putting on an amazing offensive display Wednesday night in front of 2,103 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Still, the Storm needed one or two more baskets at the end to avoid an 83-79 defeat.
“I’m old school,” coach Noelle Quinn said. “I was taught to milk the cow. When somebody is cooking like that, the basket was wide open for her. I don’t think you divert. I think you continue to go to what’s getting you a bucket. You go until you cool off. And for us she cooled off in that fourth when we needed her.”
Seattle, which squandered a 15-point lead in the third quarter and was outscored 21-7 in the fourth, trailed 81-79, which set up the game’s most pivotal play.
Following a timeout, Loyd drove to the right before running into a double team that pinned along the baseline. She tried flipping the ball to Mercedes Russell who was cutting to the basket, but the pass was deflected and stolen by Betnijah Laney with 3.9 seconds left.
Liberty guard Sami Whitcomb, the former Storm three-point specialist, canned two free throws to cap the scoring and seal the loss for Seattle, which begins its five-game road trip with two losses and fell to third place in the WNBA standings at 16-7.
“We didn’t make shots,” Loyd said when asked about Seattle’s fourth-quarter follies. “We didn’t execute.”
It was the second straight game in which Loyd, who has drained two game-winning three-pointers at the buzzer in her career, has come up short at the end.
After scoring 26 points Sunday, she blew an open layup as time expired, which resulted in an 87-85 overtime loss to the Chicago Sky.
Still, Quinn was intent on giving Loyd another chance to finish off a masterful performance with a storybook ending.
“Got Jewell the ball,” Quinn said. “Tried to have her make a play. Tried to go quick. Obviously, we were down. She was cooking in the game. A two-man game with Cedes. Try to rely on her to read and stay in the groove that she was.”
Loyd was certainly in a groove early on.
She scored 10 points in the first quarter and four in the second before Seattle went into halftime down 42-41.
But in the third quarter, the seventh-year veteran has never been better while connecting on 7 of 10 shots, including 3 of 5 three-pointers and 4 of 5 free throws for 21 points.
“I was making shots,” Loyd said. “I have the confidence all the time, it just happened to be a lot more in the third quarter.”
It was the third most points in a quarter in WNBA history behind Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi and Atlanta Dream’s Brittney Sykes who tallied 22 in 2006 and 2019, respectively.
“Maybe when I watch film I’ll appreciate it a little bit more,” Quinn said. “I’ve seen a lot of good games from Jewell when she’s gotten in a groove. But I think this one is probably at the top of that list. She was in a groove. When she’s hitting like that it’s very fun to watch and very cool to see her in those moments.
“In the third, she did get a little tired and she asked to come out briefly. It’s the fine line of winning and keeping her in, but understanding that we’re trying to save her for the stretch.”
However, as Loyd began to fatigue, the Storm’s offense faltered and stalled.
Seattle led 72-57 with 1:24 left in the third period when Loyd went to the bench and was outscored 26-7 the rest of the way while connecting on just 2 of its final 20 field goal attempts.
Loyd returned early in the fourth with 8:53 left, but she couldn’t reclaim her hot hand and didn’t score another point. Meanwhile, no other Storm player had more than five points in the second half.
“When someone steps up big like that we all need to contribute,” said Katie Lou Samuelson, who added a career-high 15 points. “We can’t just rely on Jewell to do everything to help us win that game. It’s a team effort. We’re right there clearly in these past two games. We could have closed it out if we just fix a couple of things.”
Quinn added: “We couldn’t buy a bucket. … Jordin (Canada) had a couple of mid-range looks. Lou had some 3s there. Jewell had a couple of shots that were in her normal groove. New York did a really good job of denying and pressuring at some points and understanding where we wanted to get the ball. I don’t think the ball got stagnant more so than we just couldn’t hit our shots.”
Aside from its fourth-quarter offensive meltdown, the Storm had difficulty containing New York, which converted 51.7% of its field goals, including 12 of 25 three-pointers. Seattle also sank 31 field goals, but was 9 of 26 behind the arc.
The Liberty (11-12) received 17 points each from Laney and reserve Rebecca Allen. Meanwhile, Natasha Howard, the former Storm star, had 10 points and Sabrina Ionescu finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Stewart and Bird are expected to return Friday when Seattle faces New York in a rematch to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season.
After a scintillating 12-2 start, the Storm is 4-5 in the past nine regular-season games, including 1-3 in the last four outings, which does not include last week’s win in the inaugural WNBA Commissioner’s Cup championship game.
Before Seattle’s latest setback, Quinn was asked to weigh the value of resting Stewart and Bird or having them play in an all-out attempt to finish the regular season with a top-two finish that guarantees a coveted double-bye in the playoffs.
“If a more well-rested Sue and Stewie are here for that final nine games left that’s very important than to have a team where our best players are fatigued,” Quinn said. “It is a balance of understanding we may not have them for New York, but we have enough.
“In Chicago, we were right there. We had an opportunity to win the game multiple times. So we have enough, and we just have to get that done. … We want to control our own destiny.”
- The Storm signed forward Cierra Burdick for the remainder of the season. The 6-foot-2 forward and fifth-year veteran originally signed two seven-day contracts with Seattle in July. Burdick is scoreless in three games with the Storm.