EVERETT — For the second time this season, the Storm put its fate in the hands of Breanna Stewart in the final seconds with the game on the line.
Trailing by two points, Stewart drove into the paint with Tina Charles in tow and missed a short jumper with 7.6 seconds left, which proved to be costly in Seattle’s 87-83 loss to the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night at Angel of the Winds Arena.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Storm, which fell to 12-3.
Jewell Loyd finished with a team-high 23 points and nine assists. Stewart had 17 points, eight rebounds and five blocks while Mercedes Russell and Candice Dupree each had 10 points.
Still, the Seattle quartet was no match for Charles.
When it became obvious the Mystics standout was having a special night, the Storm sent an extra defender in the post to help Russell with Charles. When that didn’t work, the Storm surrounded Charles with three and sometimes four players.
No matter what Seattle threw at Charles, she scored over multiple defenders in the paint, made three-pointers and finished with 34 points, 16 rebounds and five assists.
“I think I’m just doing my job,” said Charles, who connected on 14 of 25 field goals, including four of five three-pointers. “I don’t think I’m doing anything outside of that that you guys haven’t seen in my career.
“I’m just very thankful to be in this organization, but I don’t see that I’m doing anything different.Besides from playing smarter, being more selfless sharing the ball and trusting my teammates more, but outside of that,I’m just doing my job.”
Leilani Mitchell added 19 points while Ariel Atkins and Theresa Plaisance each had 10 for Washington (7-6).
“Tina is one of the best players in the world,” Storm coach Noelle Quinn said. “She’s an Olympian and All-Star caliber and elite player. The thing that happens with Tina, when she starts seeing a few go in the basket, it’s tough to stop her.”
Charles entered Tuesday’s game with a WNBA-leading 24.5 points per game average and was virtually unstoppable. The 6-foot-4 Mystics center connected on 5 of 10 shots for 12 points to carry Washington to a 22-19 lead in the first quarter. Charles cooled off slightly in the second, but that didn’t stop the Mystics from building a 15-point lead just before halftime. It was the Storm’s largest deficit since trailing by 12 points on May 20.
After Mitchell made a three-pointer that dropped the Storm into a 43-28 hole, guard Sue Bird spread her fingers wide and with her palms parallel to the floor motioned up and down with her hands as if to signal to her team to calm down. Seattle answered with an 8-0 run to go into halftime trailing 43-36.
The momentum continued in the third quarter for the Storm, which rode a 21-5 run to go ahead 49-48 after Loyd made a three-pointer. The basket pushed the Storm guard over the 3,000-point plateau in her seven-year career.
Washington had just eight available players while missing Alysha Clark (ankle), Elena Delle Donne (back), Natasha Cloud (ankle), Erica McCall (knee), Myisha Hines-Allen (knee) and Kiara Leslie (concussion protocol). Due to all the injuries, the Mystics were down to just two bigs (Charles and Plaisance) before signing center Megan Gustafson to a hardship contract on Monday.
Despite being severely shorthanded, Washington led 69-66 to start the fourth quarter.
The Storm bemoaned a porous defense that allowed 16 three-pointers — the most this season for a Storm opponent. Seattle players were scrambling all night to cover open shooters on the perimeter.
Down 85-83, Quinn drew up a play on the sideline for Loyd, who scored 18 points in the second half and has made two buzzer-beating three-pointers during her career.
“I was feeling good, but I trust Stewie in situations,” said Loyd, who missed a corner three-pointer before Stewart’s final attempt. “I think at certain times in the growth of the player that I’m trying to become, I’ve got to pick my poisons and decide when I want to be aggressive and when not to. We had two good shots at the end.
“We had good looks. Could I have taken a contested shot and got to my spot? Yeah. But we’ll work on how to be better so it doesn’t have to come down to the last second.”
During her brilliant five-year career, Stewart has never made a shot to win or tie the game in the final 10 seconds. In the Storm’s previous home game, the clock expired before her short jumper rolled off the rim during a 68-67 loss to Dallas two weeks ago.
This time, Stewart blew past Charles and had a good look from 8 feet away, but her shot hit the back of the rim and bounced off.
“I started out and was supposed to be guarding Russell, but I just took it personal and wanted to guard (Stewart) because she’s wanting to get her stroke going,” Charles said. “We’re not going to take away anything from them, but they’re great players and we were just trying to be as disruptive as possible.”
Stewart is 0 for 11 when tasked with winning or tying a game in the final 10 seconds. During those situations, she’s missed seven shots – all within 12 feet – committed two turnovers and twice the clock ran out before getting off a shot.
“At the end of the day, she is one of the best players in the world,” Quinn said of Stewart. “I’m not sure if she’s thinking about whatever someone is saying that she’s not efficient in those moments. It’s a matter of understanding who’s on the floor and we’re going to continue to find ways to be productive in those moments. Obviously, Jewell was cooking and we were trying to get her a shot, but Breanna Stewart with the ball close to the basket, I will take that any day. And I will continue to take it any day.
“It’s just a matter of her honing and focusing and getting it. When she sees a couple go through in those moments, the stat probably will continue to change. The best player in the world, you got to continue to have faith in those moments for her. This is something that she’ll grow and get better at. I know this isn’t a mental hurdle for her. It’s just a matter of finishing in those moments. …. Last minute or not, I think that’s still a good look in my opinion.”
The Storm, which has lost its past two home games, plays Sunday at Las Vegas, which is second in the standings at 10-3.
“It brings us down to reality a little bit and understanding this is going to be a tough stretch,” Quinn said. “The challenge within this stretch is what do you do during adversity? Do you rise or do you sink? We’re going to get everybody’s best shot in this league. We understand no matter who it is, on any given night this can happen.
“We talked about that level of excellence. We’ve got to get there and we’ve got to sustain it. At the end of the day, the challenge becomes what do you do and how do you respond?”
— During a pregame ceremony, the Storm gave 2020 WNBA championship rings to Crystal Langhorne and Clark.
— Dupree moved past Cappie Pondexter into fourth place on the WNBA all-time scoring list with 6,812 points.