At the end of a five-games-in-eight-days road trip, the Storm looked depleted and diminished Thursday night.
Their perimeter shots weren’t falling, the turnovers were piling up and for a while Seattle’s perfect road record was in jeopardy.
However, Breanna Stewart was not about to concede a thing and was at her dominant best when it mattered most to lead Seattle to its fifth straight win — a 79-69 victory against the Indiana Fever.
“We knew tonight we were winning this game no matter what it took,” said Stewart, who notched her seventh double-double performance and finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds — both game highs. “Would we have liked it to be prettier? Yes.
“But sometimes we’re not going to shoot the ball as well as we want to. Sometimes we’re going to have turnovers. But we continue to play through it. Give credit to Indiana for making it tough for us these last two games.”
Seattle, which won every game on this road trip by double digits and an average of 16.2 points, found itself in a dogfight against Indiana just 48 hours after beating the Fever 87-70.
On Tuesday night, Indiana trailed by 20 points and closed to within 10 early in the fourth before the Storm put the game away with a 13-2 run.
The rematch at Indiana Farmers Coliseum followed a similar script.
Seattle had difficulty pulling away from Indiana, which had five players in double-digit scoring including Teaira McCowan (13 points), Kelsey Mitchell (12), Tiffany Mitchell (12), Jessica Breland (10) and Jantel Lavender (10).
“In the beginning, our pace was slower,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said. “No sense of urgency. Just not as sharp as normal. But also it’s important to understand that Indiana is not a bad team.
“I know their record doesn’t indicate that, (but) they have difficult matchups. McCowan is a difficult matchup. Both Mitchells are difficult matchups. Breland is a vet. On paper it looks like we should be blowing them out of the water, but we had to hone in a little bit. We had to dig a little deeper.”
The Storm converted just 6 of 20 three-pointers — its second fewest shots from long range this season — and committed 14 turnovers, which forced Seattle to rely heavily on a disruptive defense that forced 15 turnovers. Indiana sank just 2 of 14 shots behind the arc.
“You would love to make every shot and have everything go your way, but that’s not the reality of basketball, especially in the WNBA,” said Sue Bird, who finished with 13 points, seven assists and three steals. “So, you have to have a mentality of, ‘what happens when things aren’t going your way? What happens when you can’t get into a comfortable place?’
“Tonight, was a little like that. For us to just at times make runs when we could and weather the storm that was Indiana tonight. I think we did a good job.”
The Storm led 22-17 in the first quarter and the Fever had its best moments in the second thanks to McCowan, who scored nine points in the period and finished the game with 10 rebounds.
Seattle fell behind 31-26 — it’s largest deficit in the past six games — with 4:50 left before halftime.
“We adjusted our schemes,” said Stewart, who noted McCowan had just two points in the second half. “We went over it again in the locker room. With McCowan, she’s big and she’s good and she’s skilled, especially when she can get over her left shoulder. So we wanted to make it as difficult as possible for her and she still finished the night with a double double.”
Indiana (1-13), which lost its ninth straight game, erased a 65-55 deficit in the third quarter and pulled to within 69-66 with 6:31 left as most of Seattle’s starters were on the bench. Following a timeout, Quinn re-inserted the first unit and the Storm put the game away with a 10-1 run.
“That’s what great teams do, make runs down the stretch,” Stewart said. “Similar to the last game, continue to stick with it and continue to play the way we wanted to play and we were able to put together a run. Obviously, we wanted to play that way for 40 minutes, but to come away with another win on the road and to go back to Seattle with a win, overall we’re very happy.”
Jewell Loyd, who had 15 points, five rebounds and four assists, began the momentum-swinging spurt with a jumper in the paint.
Then Stewart feathered in a driving hook shot in traffic before Bird forced a turnover that led to a fastbreak layup.
Stewart capped the Storm’s scoring with a pair of free throws and a step-back jumper to go up 79-67 with 3:15 left.
“We did a great job down the stretch rebounding,” said Bird, which was a reference to Seattle’s 40-32 rebounding advantage. “They took makeable shots, but we were able to take care of the boards. … We’ve been in this position as a team. Not this particular team, but Stewie, myself and Jewell and the 2021 version of us is gaining more confidence in these moments.
“Just understanding that there’s always going to be another opportunity. And you can’t let what happened in the early stages of the game, impact the end. … Offensively, we came down. We called some plays. We executed and got the ball where we wanted. And (Stewart and Loyd) made shots. When you have two players like that, you just got to get the ball in their hands.”
Katie Lou Samuelson added 10 points for Seattle, which improved to a league-best 12-2.
At 7-0, the Storm is the WNBA’s only undefeated team on the road and its seven-game streak set a franchise record for the most consecutive road wins during a single season.
“To go on a five-game road trip and to win all the games isn’t easy,” Stewart said. “These games where you play the same team twice in a row isn’t easy because it’s a certain level of focus and a certain level of maturity that you need going into the game. There were some Xs and Os and things we could have done better, but we’re happy with the way that the game went.”
The Storm has a four-day layoff before Tuesday’s home game against Washington.