Storm finds no relief in home loss to Sun
Seattle Times staff reporter
Having played 24 hours earlier in Los Angeles, the travel-weary Storm needed more than two points from its bench if it was going to hold off the Connecticut Sun, which had four days' rest and is fighting for a playoff berth.
Coach Anne Donovan deployed five reserves, but collectively they finished with four rebounds and converted just one of four shots as Seattle stumbled into the All-Star break with a 76-63 defeat Wednesday afternoon before an announced crowd of 10,891 at KeyArena.
"To me, one of the more disappointing things is our bench needs to be able to get in and give us a lift," Donovan said. "This is a game where we have to have them on back-to-backs and it just wasn't the case."
While the defeat dampened the enthusiasm heading into the five-day break, the Storm took solace knowing it's in solid playoff position since turning around the season last month and winning six of the past nine games.
With 14 games remaining, Seattle (11-9) is tied for third place in the Western Conference with Phoenix and it has a 3 ½-game lead over fifth-place Los Angeles. Barring a second-half collapse, the Storm will make its fourth consecutive playoff appearance, but Wednesday's game proved how fragile its championship hopes are when it is not at full strength.
Without All-Star guard Sue Bird, who is still recovering from July 6 arthroscopic surgery on her left knee, the Storm's offense couldn't keep pace with the high-scoring Sun.
Despite the towering presence of 7-2 center Sun center Margo Dydek, Lauren Jackson, who wore a white sleeve on her right knee, worked efficiently inside as she converted 12 of 24 field-goal attempts for a game-high 24 points. The All-Star forward also had six rebounds and three blocks.
Guard Betty Lennox chipped in 14 points on 6-for-14 shooting and eight rebounds, and forward Iziane Castro Marques had 13 points, four rebounds and four assists.
The supporting cast, however, came up short.
Center Janell Burse played Dydek to a draw as both players finished with eight points and seven rebounds, but second-year guard Tanisha Wright, who is subbing for Bird, was sporadic running the offense. She had a game-high six assists, and three steals, but managed just two points on 1-for-3 shooting and committed a pair of critical fourth-quarter turnovers.
Behind Katie Douglas' 17 points, 15 from Nykesha Sales and 20 from its bench, Connecticut (8-11) led by as many as 13 points before Seattle pulled to 64-57 with 5:51 remaining. Three consecutive Storm turnovers resulted in six points and sealed the outcome.
"I thought [Wright] didn't look fresh," Donovan said. "It helps to have Sue in there. Obviously [she] can generate some of her own offense and can get us into more of a rhythm."
Seattle is 2-2 without Bird, who hopes to return some time during next week's four-game East Coast road trip. She declined to pinpoint a date, but the July 20 game at Connecticut or the July 22 game at New York are strong possibilities.
"To be 2-2 in the four games that I didn't play isn't bad," Bird said. "Unfortunately, we could have been 3-1, but it didn't work out that way. And 11-9? I can think back to a lot of seasons where we made the playoffs seeded second or third and our records were worse than it is now."
Last year, the Storm finished fourth in the conference with an 18-16 record before being bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. In 2002, Seattle earned the fourth-place postseason berth with a 17-15 record and was swept in the first round.
This season, Seattle is on pace for a 19-15 finish.
"Obviously there's some importance in our record right now because it tells you how you did in the first part of the season, but there's still so much to go," Bird said. "The playoffs are far from now. Fourteen games is a lot and a lot of things can happen. Maybe we could have been higher than fourth, but we're not and hopefully we can pick up some games in the second half."
Jackson described the first half as a "weird roller coaster."
"We just have to focus on ourselves and getting better, getting stronger and mentally tougher and enjoying our roles," she said. "Then come the [playoffs], we'll be in a good position to be where we want to be."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
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