“I just felt like defensively that was one of our better efforts of the season and it led to us being able to play in transition a little bit,” Storm coach Dan Hughes said after Friday’s victory.
With full knowledge of the daunting schedule ahead, the Storm made certain to finish its stretch of five straight home games on a high note Friday night.
To that end, Seattle avoided a second straight upset loss and had little trouble defeating Indiana 72-63 — thanks in large part to its best defensive performance of the season and Jewell Loyd, who scored a game-high 25 points in front of 8,142 at KeyArena.
“We got good shots, we were assisting and the ball was moving good. But the part that gave me confidence, I just felt like defensively that was one of our better efforts of the season and it led to us being able to play in transition a little bit,” Storm coach Dan Hughes said. “We were sloppy with the ball at times, but we did get good shots and the ball moved really well.”
Despite a season-high 20 turnovers, the Storm finished with 20 assists on 28 field goals and converted 49.1 percent of its shots, including 8 of 21 three-pointers.
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Even though Seattle finished 17 points below its season average, the offense ran much smoother than it did in its last outing – an 89-77 loss to Las Vegas.
Forward Alysha Clark (right-ankle sprain) sat out for the second straight game, but guard Sue Bird returned from a one-game layoff caused by a minor knee injury and made a difference at both ends of the court.
Bird offset a season-high five turnovers with seven assists, five points, a season-high three steals and career-high-tying two blocks.
“It’s like having Michael Jordan out there,” said Loyd, who connected on 10 of 15 shots, including 3 of 6 three-pointers. “Someone who has played the game forever and knows everything. … She picks things up so quick.
“ You can tell the change of speed and the flow of the game is just different when she’s out there. We never talk about Sue’s defense, but this year she’s been everywhere. She was very efficient today defensively. She’s just really, really smart.”
Seattle never trailed by more than a point and took control of the game in the second quarter while holding Indiana to 4-of-16 shooting and a mere eight points.
The Storm went up 37-30 at halftime and pushed its lead to 56-44 after the third quarter before the reserves cleaned up in the final minutes of the fourth.
Once Seattle curtailed veteran forward Candice Dupree (15 points), the Storm was able to corral a young Fever team that missed a handful of layups and shot 34.7 percent from the field.
Indiana (1-12) never got closer than six points in the second half.
Breanna Stewart scored 15 points and Natasha Howard 11 for Seattle, which improved to 9-4 and closed out its five-game homestand at 3-2.
“We wanted to go 5-0,” Stewart said. “We don’t want to lose at home, especially knowing that July is going to be rough being on the road for so long.”
The Storm, which plays Sunday at Dallas and Tuesday at Minnesota, plays four of its next six games on the road.
“It’s life in the WNBA,” Hughes said. “There was some good, obviously (and) there was some where we had to deal with injury. There was some where we didn’t play to our strengths. We could’ve found a way to be better, but I think it really taught us the reality of having to play when you lose a starter or two. We kind of grew. It’s just reality in the league. Other teams are having to deal with it.”