EVERETT – Just how far will the Storm fall?
Two weeks ago, Seattle came out of the Olympic break first in the league.
Seven games later, the Storm has fallen to third in the WNBA standings after Sunday’s 107-75 defeat to the Chicago Sky and there’s no indication that Seattle’s late-season plummet will end any time soon.
During its recent slump, Seattle could take solace that it had a chance to win every game and had never lost by more than eight points. While stammering to a 6-7 record in the previous games, the Storm by an average margin of 4.8 points.
In front of 3,750 at the Angel of the Winds Arena, Chicago handed Seattle its first three-game losing streak of the season and exposed the Storm’s flaws like no one has in a very long time.
The Sky’s 107 points tied the most points for a Storm opponent in regulation. The 32-point margin of defeat was Seattle’s second worst home loss and tied for the fifth most lopsided defeat in franchise history.
“Sometimes in this league, you get one of these,” coach Noelle Quinn said. “You have one of those games where you just can’t get it rolling. Unfortunately for us, it happened to be today. I wasn’t discouraged by our effort. I thought we were intentional by certain things, but just couldn’t get over the hump.”
More to the point, the Storm never truly got going in this one.
Chicago connected on its first seven three-pointers, including three from Courtney Vandersloot and two from Candace Parker for a 31-23 lead in the first quarter.
“It’s tough when you can’t get multiple stops in a row and our offensive possessions aren’t fluid and sharp,” Quinn said. “That’s what it was. I literally felt like everyone was hitting a shot during that stretch for Chicago.
“Candace was really comfortable today in everything that she was doing as a playmaker and as a shot maker. We weren’t making them uncomfortable and we weren’t capitalizing off of anything. I feel like they scored off of all of our turnovers as well.”
The Sky’s offensive assault continued in the second period while outscoring the Storm 32-18 and taking a 63-41 lead into halftime.
The Storm fell behind 67-41 early in the third and went into the fourth down 23 points (81-58).
Seattle never got closer than 20 points the rest of the way.
“I’m trying to look for the positives,” Quinn said while scanning the box score during a postgame interview.
But truth be told, aside Breanna Stewart’s 19 points and Jordin Canada, who had a season-high 17 points in her first start of the season, there wasn’t a lot for Quinn to feel good about.
And to make matters worse, Canada suffered a right knee injury after colliding with Kahleah Copper and left the game with 6:40 remaining in the blowout defeat.
Quinn started Canada in place of Katie Lou Samuelson in response to Friday’s 73-69 loss against Chicago when Copper scored a career-high 26 points. Canada proved to be effective slowing down Copper, who finished with 13 points on 6-for-15 shooting.
However, Seattle’s three-guard lineup left the Storm vulnerable inside against the Sky, which enjoyed a 36-22 rebounding edge.
“Jordin did a really good job and getting Sue off the ball, I liked that,” Quinn said. “She got some really good looks. We were very vulnerable on the boards. … That was specific for this game. I don’t know if I’ll go back to that. Just tried to show a different look.”
Seattle’s small-ball lineup was no match for Parker, who continually exploited mismatches in the post for a game-high 25 points on 11-of-17 shooting.
The Storm also had no defense against a red-hot shooting Chicago team that connected on 15 of 22 three-pointers. Diamond DeShields canned three shots behind the perimeter for 16 points.
Vandersloot, the former Kentwood High and Gonzaga standout, also had three three-pointers and tallied 13 points and 10 assists. Dana Evans added 14 points off the bench and Azura Stevens had 12.
When asked the other day how the Storm can break out of a three-game shooting slump in which Seattle has connected on 26.1% of its three-pointers, Sue Bird said the only remedy was to continue shooting.
However, Seattle attempted a season-low-tying 17 three-point attempts on Sunday and converted five. In its previous game, the Storm was 3 of 17 from downtown.
If the WNBA standings remain the same and the top seeds win in the first round of the playoffs, then Seattle (18-10) will host Chicago (14-12) in a second-round quarterfinal matchup.
Seattle has four games remaining in the regular season and its four-game homestand continues with Thursday’s contest against the New York Liberty.
Quinn said the toll of the season explains why the Storm is just 2-5 since the Olympic break. Still, she also believes there’s enough time for Seattle to pull out of its tailspin and build momentum heading toward the playoffs.
“We have not lost a championship,” Quinn said. “This happens in our league. Teams go through this and unfortunately, we’re going through this right now at the tail end. We’ve had Olympics. We’ve had Commissioner’s Cup. We’ve had a baby (Stewart by surrogate). We’ve had a coaching change.
“We had a lot of things that have happened to us and in order to get through it, we have to be resilient. Adversity reveals character. We have to make sure and understand that we’re not at the end of the road. Take it a day at a time and get better.”