Seattle beats Indiana 88-75 and will head to Atlanta to face the Dream in a one-game playoff on Wednesday.
Lisa Brummel, one of the Storm’s three co-owners, greeted players inside the locker room with hugs, high-fives and a great big smile.
Seattle clinched its first WNBA playoff berth since 2013 last week, but Sunday’s 88-75 thumping over the Chicago Sky closed the chapter on an often times turbulent 2016 regular season that proved to be ultimately satisfying.
And for that, Brummel is excited about the possibility of a postseason run as well as the long-term future for a playoff-starved franchise that has two league titles in its trophy case.
• Seattle Storm (7) at Atlanta Dream (6), 5 p.m., ESPNews
• Phoenix Mercury (8) at Indiana Fever (5), 3 p.m., ESPNews
• Minnesota Lynx (1), Los Angeles Sparks (2), New York Liberty (3) and Chicago Sky (4) have byes
“We always had the goal to make the playoffs, but that’s a goal,” Brummel said. “And when you have a bunch of unknowns, you don’t know if you’re going to make it and this team showed up.”
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Seattle (16-18) starts the playoffs at 5 p.m. Wednesday as the No. 7 seed against sixth-seeded Atlanta (17-17) at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion in a win-or-go-home game televised by ESPNews.
To get there, the Storm needed a hot finish over the last month of the season. Before the Olympic break, Seattle was 9-15 and tied for eighth in the league standings.
Since then, Seattle is 7-3, which is tied with No. 1 seed Minnesota (28-6) and No. 4 Chicago (18-16) for the best record over the final 10 games.
“When we came back, Sue (Bird) and I noticed there was a difference,” said rookie forward Breanna Stewart, who helped Team USA to a gold medal. “We’re real young and we hadn’t had that time together. We are a talented team, but it’s hard when you’re thrown together. It was really good to have that break.”
The Storm bounced back from an 86-62 trouncing last Thursday at Phoenix and pulled away from Chicago in the fourth quarter thanks to major contributions from reserve forwards Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (16 points) and Ramu Tokashiki (14).
“The more we can keep fresh legs out there, the more we can play the way that we need to play,” Storm coach Jenny Boucek said.
The Storm nursed a 63-61 lead heading into the fourth quarter. That’s when Seattle’s stars showed up.
Jewell Loyd (10 points, six rebounds and six assists), Stewart (18 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and two blocks) and Sue Bird (14 points, five rebounds and five assists) made baskets on consecutive possessions that pushed the Storm ahead 70-63 with 7:33 remaining.
Mosqueda-Lewis sealed the win with a pair of three-pointers — the last basket gave Seattle a 76-63 lead at the 5:53 mark.
Chicago, which has a first-round bye, played without star forward Elena Delle Donne who underwent surgery last Tuesday to repair her right thumb and has missed the final five regular-season games.
The Sky also sat out guards Cappie Pondexter and Kent’s Courtney Vandersloot — its second and third-leading scorer respectively — to rest for the postseason. Forward Jessica Breeland and guard Jamierra Faulkner led Chicago with 14 points.
The blowout victory was a fitting sendoff on Fan Appreciation Night in front of a sellout crowd of 12,186 that may have watched the Storm’s last home game this season.
The WNBA adopted a new playoff format that includes single-elimination games in first and second rounds. The semifinals and WNBA finals are best-of-5 series.
If Seattle beats Atlanta, the Storm would play New York or Chicago.
“As a lower-seeded team, it’s exciting that it’s just one game in the playoffs,” Bird said. “As a higher-seeded team you’re not thrilled about that. … We’re in a good spot. We’re playing and when you’re in a situation like this, anything is possible.”
No matter what happens in the playoffs, Boucek doesn’t believe the Storm will reach its potential this season.
“This is a mulityear plan with a young team with a high ceiling,” she said. “We want to reach as far a point as we can this season. We want to extend the season as long as possible and get better every second of the time we have left together.”
• Stewart set the WNBA record with 277 defensive rebounds, which broke the old mark of 276 set by Lisa Leslie in 2004.