Storm's 3-game run ends in San Antonio
Seattle Times staff reporter
SAN ANTONIO — This had nothing to do with missing All-Star Sue Bird.
The Storm's 80-73 loss Saturday to San Antonio was all about the Silver Stars displaying how strong a defensive team they are and how poised they are to be a force in the WNBA playoffs.
The Storm tried to come back, cutting a 23-point deficit in the third quarter to 70-65 following a Tanisha Wright layin with 2:47 remaining in the fourth. But San Antonio forward Erin Buescher beat the shot clock with a three-pointer 37 seconds later to give her team a boost it rode to its third win in a row.
"We turned it around in the second half, it was just a little bit too late," said the Storm's Betty Lennox, whose team saw its season-best winning streak end at three.
Said Wright of the Silver Stars, who are 3-0 against the Storm this season: "One thing is for sure, they have our number. If we're looking past this game and we're looking if we make the postseason, they're [eager] to play us. But right now we have to move on. We have another game in L.A. in a couple days, and we need to focus on that."
And it's entirely possible the Storm and Silver Stars could meet in the Western Conference playoffs, as both would be one of four squads to qualify if the postseason started today.
And Seattle would surely see more of the aggressive defense San Antonio displayed before 7,510 at the AT&T Center on Saturday.
Storm All-Star Lauren Jackson didn't take a shot until midway through the first quarter, missing a 5-foot banker. She was 2 for 4 from the field in the first half as the Storm went into halftime down 42-25 after committing 14 turnovers.
"In the first half we just let them run all over us. Their intensity flustered us," said Jackson, whose team played the second game of a back-to-back set. "In the post it was impossible to get the ball. There was a blanket over me. It was one of those games where I had to try to make my own baskets, and when you're not hitting ... maybe I should just work on my jump shot."
The Storm limited its limited turnovers to two in the second half, as coach Anne Donovan switched her lineup to run Wright at the point with Lennox and rookie Katie Gearlds — in place of starter Iziane Castro Marques — on the wings. Jackson played inside with Shyra Ely, who replaced center Janell Burse.
Lennox helped relieve the pressure on Wright by bringing up the ball at times, and the group went on a 20-6 run to whittle a 52-29 deficit to58-49 at the end of the third quarter.
Gearlds led offensively with nine of her 11 points in the quarter.
But the Storm couldn't stop Buescher, who scored 11 of her career-high 27 points in the fourth.
"Erin's just so active," Jackson said. "It's kind of hard to stop somebody like that, especially with the way we play. We don't focus on her defensively. Maybe we should from now on."
Seattle played its second consecutive game without Bird, who had knee surgery Friday in Connecticut. San Antonio played without All-Star point guard Becky Hammon, who missed her third consecutive game because of a sprained right ankle.
"We have sort of the same thing [as Seattle, missing its point guard]," said Silver Stars assistant coach Brian Agler, who is taking over while coach Dan Hughes recovers from Achilles surgery. "Helen Darling is running the show and she's doing a great job. The ladies had a great first-half defensive effort. I think it was the best 20 minutes this year."
Buescher had a career-high five steals to lead her team. Meanwhile, Wright had a career-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting with four assists and two turnovers.
The Storm closes out the first half of the season with a 12:30 p.m. game Tuesday at Los Angeles and a noon game Wednesday at home against Connecticut. It will then break for next Sunday's All-Star Game before starting the second half with a four-game trip.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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