Rather than spend her off nights watching WNBA games that potentially impact the Storm’s playoff hopes, Jewell Loyd is consuming as much of the U.S. Open as possible.
The Storm star, who was once a tennis prodigy while growing up in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood, Ill., will let others fret about Seattle’s recent backsliding in the league standings and which teams are heating up or cooling off as the postseason comes into view.
“I play basketball all the time, so I don’t like to go home and watch it,” Loyd said. “It’s different for me. When I’m around basketball too much it kind of gets redundant. When I go home and I try find my peace whether it’s talking to my friends back home, hanging out with team and playing cards or watching tennis.
“Our job is stressful enough. We’re around it all the time. We know it’s the end of the season. Everyone is talking. Twitter is going crazy. I try to disconnect as much as I can just to remind myself of why I play a game. It’s basically fun for me and all of that other stuff is not fun. So I try to make sure that I always find my balance.”
Loyd knows better than anyone that Seattle’s three-game losing streak likely doomed the defending WNBA champion’s chances of capturing a No. 1 or No. 2 playoff seed, which guarantees a coveted double-bye to the semifinals.
Connecticut, which hasn’t dropped a game since losing to Seattle in the WNBA’s inaugural Commissioner’s Cup championship on Aug. 12, is the hottest team in the WNBA with a nine-game winning streak. The Sun (21-6) can clinch a top-two with two wins in its final five regular-season games.
Las Vegas (19-7) has the most difficult schedule remaining among the top four teams in the standings with half of its six games left on the road and six contests against likely playoff-bound teams.
Seattle (18-10) is 3½ games behind Connecticut and trails Las Vegas by 2 games.
Perhaps more troublesome for the Storm are the teams in the rearview mirror who are closing in fast. Seattle needs to win at least two of its remaining four regular-season games to secure a top-four finish and receive a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Minnesota Lynx (16-9), which is a just a half-game behind the Storm, is 8-2 in the past 10 contests and have seven games remaining, including six against teams with losing records.
And aside from Connecticut, no one is playing better than the Phoenix Mercury (16-10), which has won seven straight and is 9-1 in the past 10 games. In its next three contests, Phoenix faces bottom-feeders Indiana and Atlanta before wrapping up the regular season against Connecticut, Seattle and Las Vegas.
“You want to be playing your best basketball towards the end,” Loyd said. “You want to go into the playoffs feeling good and confident. We faced a lot of stuff. We’ve been in this position. … We understand what’s on the line. We don’t feel like we’re playing our best basketball right now, but these last couple of days of practice have been good for us to get back to the basics.”
It remains to be seen if the Storm will continue a late-season nosedive or capture a much-needed win 7 p.m. Thursday at Angel of the Winds Arena against the struggling New York Liberty (11-17) that’s lost five straight games and is 1-8 in the past nine games.
Seemingly, the Storm can’t play any worse than it did Sunday while stumbling to a 107-75 defeat against Chicago, which tied for the fifth worst lopsided defeat in franchise history.
“That’s an outlier and we all know it,” coach Noelle Quinn said. “One of these games happen per season. We had one in the bubble (last year) when we played Washington and they kind of blasted us.
“You obviously look at it, learn from it and grow from it. But nothing to dwell on especially when a lot of it is the fatigue factor or the effort factor. Those are things that we can control. Look at it learn from it and watch it. It was hard to watch, I’m going to be honest. But just kind of move forward and get better.”
Quinn, a first-year coach who took over May 30 following Dan Hughes’ sudden retirement, is tasked with figuring out why the Storm suddenly has fallen off on both ends of the court.
During its first 14 games, Seattle compiled a 12-2 record. Over its last 14 contests, the Storm is 6-8.
“Not hitting shots,” Quinn said. “Defensively, I think we’re a step slow on our rotations. Rebounding has been key and huge. Whether it’s getting to rebounds or getting extra possessions with offensive boards.
“Our offense is getting a little bit stagnant. Teams are switching on Stewie (Breanna Stewart) and everything is clogged up. Trying to find ways to get easier buckets and that’s usually with our defense generating steals. Just tightening up our defense, hitting our shots offensively and finishing off plays by rebounding the ball.”
Quinn has attributed Seattle’s recent slump to exhaustion and has shortened practice in hopes of keeping the players fresh for games.
“There is some fatigue and it manifested in that game,” she said referencing Sunday’s 32-point defeat to Chicago. “Emotional fatigue. Mental fatigue. And physical fatigue. I’m not questioning our effort. I think our effort is there.
“The locker room knows the importance of these games. They’re trying, but it’s how can we find that reset button or the rejuvenation button or that recharge button that we need to push us and propel us in these last four games. The urgency is there. I’m not questioning our effort, it’s just our execution needs to be better.”
— Storm backup point guard Jordin Canada suffered a right-knee injury Sunday and will sit out Thursday.