EVERETT — For 37 minutes, the Seattle Storm kept Allie Quigley quiet.
One of the premier sharpshooters in the WNBA, and the reigning three-point contest champion, Quigley was nowhere to be seen for most of Friday night’s game between the Storm and the Chicago Sky, going just 1 of 5 shooting from beyond the arc.
But with three minutes left in the game and Chicago down one, Quigley flared over a pin-down screen and took advantage of the small amount of space granted to her by the Storm’s switch, raising up and nailing a three over the outstretched arms of Sue Bird.
Quigley’s shot gave Chicago a lead it never surrendered, condemning Seattle to a 73-69 loss. It’s the Storm’s second consecutive loss, and the team’s fourth since the WNBA restart as it chases the No. 2 seed and an automatic berth in the semifinals.
In three of its past four losses, the Storm has shot under 40%, including both games against the Sky, a potential playoff matchup. Coach Noelle Quinn believes some fatigue, both mental and physical, might be at the heart of some of the team’s issues on offense, though she is still happy with Seattle’s shot selection.
“Definitely have to take a step back and reevaluate a lot,” she said. “It’s interesting, the looks we’ve been getting in the last six games are the looks we always get.”
Friday night’s defeat also was the second time the team has lost to Chicago since the Olympic break. Although this time, the Storm was at full strength as both Breanna Stewart and Bird played after sitting out the most recent time the two teams met.
Neither team managed to get separation early. Playing through six-time All-Star Candace Parker, the Sky jumped out to an early 11-6 lead. However, an 8-1 Storm run through the final five minutes of the first quarter gave them the edge after the first 10 minutes, highlighted by Jewell Loyd’s inbound steal and finish.
The score stayed close until midway through the second quarter. The Storm starters returned to the court with five minutes left in the half, and Sue Bird immediately hit an open three-pointer, assisted by Breanna Stewart, who found the point guard on a pass out of a Sky double team. A Seattle stop then led to a transition three from Loyd. The Storm headed into the break up 32-28, with both teams shooting below 40% from the field in the half.
“We defended well enough, just couldn’t find ways to lock in during the key moments and convert in certain moments,” Quinn said.
Chicago and Seattle continued to exchange baskets for much of the third quarter, as both teams struggled from three-point range, but the Storm was given a boost following the introductions of guard Jordin Canada and center Ezi Magbegor. Canada, the UCLA alum, added six points and two assists to lead the Storm’s second unit, while the Australian put up eight points on 50% shooting. Center Mercedes Russell had 11 points and seven rebounds.
The Sky continued to hang around though. Less than two weeks after beating Seattle in overtime, Chicago kept itself in the game. Kahleah Copper led the team with 26 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter, while Azura Stevens had a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Parker also contributed eight points, while Stefanie Dolson poured in 12 points off the Sky bench.
With the game still close heading into the final minutes, the Storm leaned on its MVP candidate. Stewart bullied her way into the paint time and again, attempting six free throws in the fourth quarter despite an off shooting night.
“I was definitely trying to be aggressive and get to the rim,” she said. “There were a couple shots that I had where I was expecting someone to be there, and I took a jump shot when I could have taken a layup.”
Celebrating her 27th birthday, Stewart scored 18 points on 4 of 13 shooting, to go along with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. She was joined in double digits by Loyd, who scored 12 on 35.7% shooting, while Bird added eight points and four assists and was the only player on the Storm to hit more than one three-pointer. Seattle shot 17.6% from three-point range Friday night.
“Anytime a team shoots 17% from three, they probably lost,” Stewart said. “I think it’s just seeing the ball go in the basket. I don’t think it’s fatigue and, also, fatigue is not an option right now because we’re in our final push so everybody needs to be doing what they have to do individually to make sure they’re ready.”
Quigley’s three-pointer, two Copper transition layups and a clutch steal secured the win for Chicago. The Sky outscored the Storm 10-4 in the final four minutes.
Seattle has a chance to avenge its loss in two days as the teams play again Sunday. Tipoff at Angel of the Winds Arena is scheduled for 3 p.m. Five games remain until the WNBA playoffs begin.
“We’re playing hard, I’m not even concerned about that or the effort,” Quinn said. “The effort is there, now the execution has to be a little bit better.”