Storm stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird underwent MRI exams Thursday on a foot and knee injury, respectively.
The results didn’t reveal a significant injury, but both players are listed as questionable for Friday’s 7 p.m. game against Phoenix (13-8) in Bradenton, Fla.
“I think they are still doing some evaluations on them,” Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg said during a Zoom call. “I don’t think it’s anything major or serious, but I’m not really sure exactly because they’re still taking a look at all the information they got.”
Kloppenburg didn’t rule out Stewart and Bird for Friday or Sunday’s much anticipated rematch against Las Vegas in the regular-season finale.
However, Seattle can afford to be cautious with them after securing a spot in the WNBA semifinals.
The Storm (17-3) has a one-game lead over Las Vegas (16-4) for the top spot in the standings, but the Aces would lock up the top spot with two wins because their 82-74 victory over the Storm on Aug. 22 gives them the tiebreaker advantage.
The No. 1 and No. 2 playoff seeds receive a double bye, thus avoiding single-elimination games in the first and second rounds and automatically advancing to the best-of-five semifinals.
The Storm is weighing the benefits of playing Stewart and Bird in essentially a pair of meaningless games against the risk of not having them at their best when it matters most in the playoffs.
“It’s all based on heath,” Kloppenburg said. “The health of the players is paramount in this situation and that trumps anything, especially a regular-season situation. We’re going to put their health ahead of having them play. Use all the time that we can to get them back healthy.”
Midway in the third quarter, Stewart left the court for treatment on her ankle and returned minutes later. She finished with a team-high-tying 23 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks in 34 minutes.
Bird went down in the fourth quarter after colliding knees with a Dallas player while attempting a steal and didn’t return.
Both Seattle stars have a history of injuries that further complicates their current setbacks.
Bird, the league’s oldest player at 39 who sat out last season because of arthroscopic surgery on her left knee, has missed nine games this season due to a bone bruise in her left knee.
Meanwhile, Stewart has been surprisingly durable during her first year back after sitting out the 2019 season due to an Achilles injury.
The fourth-year veteran is averaging 19.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.7 steals, 1.3 blocks and 30.4 minutes, which is comparable to her 2018 statistics when she won the WNBA MVP award.
“Everybody is kind of beat up,” Kloppenburg said. “She’s playing high minutes. … You want to be conservative and really smart about everything regarding player’s health, especially this situation going into the playoffs.”
If Seattle loses Stewart and Bird, then their absences would elevate backup guard Jordin Canada and center Mercedes Russell into a lineup that went 18-16 last year and advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
“All of our players coming off the bench, everybody is pretty much on the same page on what we’re doing offensively and defensively,” Kloppenburg said. “We’ll probably do a few different things depending on our lineups out there. We have a lot of weapons.
“It’s just a situation where the next person has got to be ready to step up and play and contribute. It will be an opportunity for those players that maybe haven’t gotten as many minutes, they’re going to get them.”