Seattle shoots a season-low 34.9 percent from the field and falls in the first-round elimination game for the second consecutive season.
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Storm could petition for a new postseason format. For the second straight year, the two-time WNBA champion was eliminated in the winner-take-all first-round game.
Breanna Stewart had 23 points and eight rebounds but the eighth-seeded Storm could not overcome a season-low 34.9 shooting percentage in a 79-69 loss to the Phoenix Mercury in a game played at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday.
The Storm trailed by 12 late in the third quarter before chipping away, and Stewart’s steal and layup brought the Storm within 64-59, with 3:44 remaining.
Sue Bird’s jumper brought the Storm to 67-63 before Diana Taurasi expanded the lead to 70-63 on a three-pointer with 1:12 left.
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Bird, who had 10 points, made a three-pointer with 31 seconds left to cut the deficit to 73-68, but the Storm never had the ball with a chance to tie thereafter.
Center Brittney Griner, the WNBA’s leading scorer, had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the fifth-seeded Mercury (19-16). She averaged 24 points and 8.7 rebounds in the four season meetings. The Mercury won three.
Taurasi, the leading scorer in WNBA history, had 14 points despite foul trouble. With her fifth point, she became the second player in league history with 1,000 playoff points.
Jewell Loyd, who had a career-high 33 points in a 75-71 loss to the Mercury in Seattle on Aug. 27, had 17 points. She was 4 for 14 from the field, missing her first eight field-goal attempts.
Crystal Langhorne was limited to 22 minutes and two points after getting into foul trouble at the start of both halves.
The Storm (15-20) lost to Atlanta in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Mercury guards Leilani Mitchell had 17 points and Yvonne Turner had 15.
The road team won each of the three previous meetings this season, and this time the road team had no choice.
The game was played at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena because a Marvel Universe event, billed as the “battle to defend the universe from evil,” was booked at the Mercury’s home in downtown Phoenix.
All these teams wanted was a game in New York.
The Storm lost Langhorne early. She picked up two fouls in the first 2:57 and was forced to sit the rest of the quarter. Langhorne, who averaged 14 points and 4.7 rebounds against the Mercury this season, also covered the 6-8 Griner.
The Mercury lost a key piece when Taurasi picked two fouls within a 13-second span midway through the quarter and also was removed.
The Storm led 17-16 after one quarter after Stewart’s three-pointer.
Langhorne played most of the second quarter, but Taurasi played only 38 seconds in the quarter after picking up her third foul at 8:07.
Gainer had 12 points at half when the Mercury took a 32-31 lead. Loyd missed all seven of her field-goal attempts, including two three-pointers. She was 6 of 6 from the free-throw line as the Storm stayed close by making 13 of 14 free throws.