Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne makes a three-pointer with 0.9 seconds left to spoil a great really by the Storm.
KeyArena fans got the matchup they wanted to see.
After the Storm’s Sue Bird sank a three-pointer to cap a 25-point comeback and tie the score with 18.9 seconds left, Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne and Seattle’s Breanna Stewart squared off near the top of the key.
Suddenly, a two-hour basketball game that had all the twists and turns of a roller-coaster ride, came down to a single play and a matchup between two of the WNBA’s brightest young stars.
Orlando @ Storm, 7 p.m.
Delle Donne, the league’s reigning MVP, dribbled between her legs while her Chicago teammates stationed themselves across the court to give her room to work.
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As the clock raced to zero, she rocked Stewart slightly off balance with a crossover move before pulling up and draining a 25-foot three-pointer that splashed through the net with 0.9 seconds left.
At the other end, Delle Donne blocked Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ three-pointer in the corner to send the Storm to a heartbreaking 91-88 defeat Sunday in front of 5,318.
“You knew they were going to go to her,” Stewart said. “Having her catch it outside the three-point line as far out as I could was a win. There wasn’t a whole lot of time and she started dribbling and dribbling.
“I thought I was doing pretty good and then she pulled up. She made it. I thought it was good (defense). I could have been into her more, I guess. But she made a tough shot.”
Stewart used her 7-foot-1 wingspan and got a hand in Delle Donne’s face, but the Chicago standout hit the biggest basket in a game stuffed with big shots.
“I wanted to make sure the clock went down enough where they wouldn’t be able to run a play if we scored or if we missed,” said Delle Donne who finished with a game-high 35 points on 14-of-24 shooting. She was 3 for 3 behind the arc.
“I just felt confident, was able to get into a rhythm, let it fly,” Delle Donne said. “It felt great to see it go in because we really needed that win.”
Both teams are battling for one of the eight playoff berths. Chicago (10-12) is sixth in the standings while Seattle (8-14) remains in 10th. A win would have moved the Storm into an eight-place tie.
Seattle has one game remaining — Wednesday’s noon contest against San Antonio — on its four-game homestand that now includes two defeats.
It was a bittersweet atmosphere inside the Storm locker room.
“We can’t get down too much,” Bird said when asked about the 56-32 halftime deficit. “You just can’t. It does say a lot about us and our character that we were able to fight back. But obviously, you can’t dig yourself a hole like that.”
Seattle, which trailed 59-34 early in the third quarter, outscored Chicago 28-14 in the third quarter and was down 70-60 heading into the fourth quarter.
“I told them at halftime I couldn’t adjust anything technically until we started getting the energy that we need to play with,” Coach Jenny Boucek said. “We started the game really flat and let them get comfortable and let them get hot.
“I was pleased with the effort on the comeback. It was a heck of a comeback. But we were unfortunately in a huge hole because of our anemic start, particular defensively.”
Chicago dominated the rebounding battle 41-22 and shot 54.8 percent from the field in the first half.
Bird recovered from a wobbly start and finished with a season-high tying 24 points on 9-for-16 shooting, including four three-pointers.
Meanwhile, Stewart added 22 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five blocks in another brilliant outing.
The Storm also received 12 points and 10 assists from Jewell Loyd while Mosqueda-Lewis had 12 points and Alysha Clark 11.
“It was fun to compete like that and that’s what we want to do every single night,” Stewart said. “Not be down by (25) to compete, but to be in the game at the end.”
• The Storm played its first game with former star Lauren Jackson’s No. 15 hanging in the rafters.
• Former Storm star Betty Lennox sat courtside.