Storm break Fever in 72-63 win

Jewell Loyd goes up for the layup. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
Jewell Loyd goes up for the layup. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

Seattle – There’s no denying the record.

A 1-12, the Indiana Fever sit alone at the bottom of the WNBA standings.

But with a pair of overtime losses, and six more in regulation by nine points or fewer, it hasn’t been the blowout-fueled slog one might expect at first glance.

Friday night was more of the same in Seattle, as the Fever dropped their 12th game in 13 tries. And again, Indiana remained within striking distance all night, but unable to put together a run in an eventual 72-63 loss to the Storm at KeyArena.

Jewell Loyd led all scorers with 25 points for the hosts, while Natasha Howard finished just shy of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Candice Dupree had a team-high 15 points for Indiana, with Erica Wheeler adding 15 off the bench.

“Our transition defense was atrocious and that was the downfall,” said Indiana head coach Pokey Chatman. “We forced them into 20 turnovers and made them uncomfortable when we forced them to play in the half court, but didn’t give ourselves enough opportunities with that.”

Natasha Howard drives past Natalie Achonwa and Tiffany Mitchell to score. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
Natasha Howard drives past Natalie Achonwa and Tiffany Mitchell to score. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

Seattle started the night on a 7-0 run, forcing a Chatman timeout just 90 seconds into the game. The early stoppage proved wise, with the Fever outscoring the Storm 22-16 to the end of the quarter, and taking a short-lived lead on a Natalie Achonwa lay-up early in the second.

But the Storm took a 37-30 advantage into the half, and held a lead that fluctuated between six and 14 points for the rest of the night.

Storm head coach Dan Hughes called the game one of Seattle’s better defensive games of the year — holding Indiana under 35 percent from the field — and said it allowed the team to play in transition.

“We did get good shots and moved the ball really well,” he said. ” … We wanted to go into the paint and we did go into the paint with the basketball and create there, then let the three’s come as a reaction to us playing in the paint.”

Seattle also benefited from the return of Sue Bird, who finished with five points, three steals, and seven assists after sitting out on Tuesday. Loyd said it was akin to having Michael Jordan back on the court.

“She knows the game so well, she picks up on things quickly and you can that having her makes a difference,” she said.

Candice Dupree elevates over Sue Bird to score. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.
Candice Dupree elevates over Sue Bird to score. Neil Enns/Storm Photos.

For Indiana, the loss was the team’s ninth by 10 points or less. Twelfth-year forward Dupree knows the feeling of seeing the losses mount, but understands her role.

“My rookie year, I won four games in Chicago. I know what it’s like,” she said. “It kind of sucks to be on the tail end of your career and losing like that, but I’m here for a reason and that’s to help these players grow … I know most of them come from winning programs so it’s not easy to come here and lose, but it’s baby steps. Like coach has said, we’re not young any more. We’re 13 games in and it’s time to grow up. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot and need to find a way to fix it.”

The Storm now embark on a two-game road swing, starting Sunday against Dallas. Indiana returns home for a Sunday matchup with the Sun.

Dribbles:

  • Keeping it 100: Natasha Howard collected her 100th career assist on a first-quarter pass to Jewell Loyd, while Courtney Paris notched her 100th steal in the second.
  • Alysha Clark missed her second straight game as she continues to recover from a right ankle injury suffered against Connecticut last Friday.
  • Stephanie Mavunga missed her second straight game for the Fever, with a left ankle injury.
  • Attendance: 8,142