After starting 4-1, the Storm went 2-7 in June. After snapping a three-game skid on Saturday in Dallas, Seattle has five straight at home before KeyArena hosts the WNBA All-Star Game on July 22.
Back in May, the Storm began the season with wins in four of its first five games. The same group of five starters from last season were back for another year, and the Storm’s only loss that month came in the opener when Breanna Stewart, the 2016 No. 1 draft pick, and Sue Bird, the 15-year veteran, were sidelined with knee injuries.
And then June began. The month started with a 23-point loss at home to the Minnesota Lynx, which began a stretch of nine games where the Storm won just twice.
“Even if you don’t play well and win, you do go home at night feeling a little bit better about yourself,” Bird said. “Sometimes it’s the losing can start to add up and weigh on you.”
New York at Seattle, 7 p.m., JOEtv
But now, after a victory over the Dallas Wings on Saturday, the Storm begins a five-game homestand against the New York Liberty at KeyArena on Thursday, perhaps an opportunity to steer back toward the team’s early-season performances.
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“It’s definitely a chance to regroup and get back on track,” Stewart said. “We’re here for almost the whole month, so most teams don’t have that in their schedule. We’re fortunate to have it that way. Now it’s just on us to make sure we take advantage of it.”
The Storm will face five teams, four of which it has played and lost to at least once this year, before the WNBA All-Star Game on July 22, which will also be in Seattle.
Seattle has played the Liberty twice in 2017 — a 87-81 home win on May 26 and a 94-86 road loss on June 11, which were both tough games that “came down to the end,” Bird said.
On Thursday, the Storm knows what to expect from New York: an intense and physical team. But Bird said she doesn’t think the Liberty has seen the Storm at its best yet this season.
“A lot of our advantage comes when we play fast and run,” Bird said. “We’re not necessarily the most physical team. Other teams can kind of out-physical us, but we can definitely outrun over the course of 40 minutes. That is something we like to do that we’ve gotten away from.”
Throughout the June losses, Seattle wasn’t getting blown out consistently, only twice ending the game with a double-digit deficit. In many of those matchups, the outcome was decided by just a few possessions, Bird said, but close games like that are normal in the WNBA.
Even with the team’s 7-8 record, individual players have shown plenty of sparks of promise. As of Wednesday, Bird leads the WNBA in assists. and Stewart and Jewell Loyd are both in the top 10 for points per game.
Still, personal stats like those start to become irrelevant if the team has to head home with a loss. And more often than not, that was the case for Storm players last month.
“No matter what, if you lose, it’s a bad taste in your mouth,” Bird said.
Heading into Thursday’s game, the Storm is one of just five teams with a losing record. Seattle sits at second-to-last in the WNBA’s Western Conference standings, ahead of only the San Antonio Stars, a team that has won one game this year.
But the season is still not even halfway over, and the looming stretch at home could become a turning point of sorts.
“Sometimes you need ruts like that to wake you up,” Bird said. “Hopefully it worked.”
The Storm will find out soon enough.