Seattle — About a half hour after her team pulled out a close win against the San Antonio Stars in front of a sell-out crowd at KeyArena, Jewell Loyd was back on the court.
She stood at the free-throw line in full uniform, taking one shot after another.
If Kelsey Plum had stood just an inch or so further back on her final shot, Loyd’s miss at the charity stripe with 10 seconds to play would have meant overtime on Friday night.
“I should have made my free-throw,” Loyd said after the game. “That’s on me. It shouldn’t have gotten to that point.”
Instead, Plum toed the three-point line, and the arching jumper of the University of Washington’s former star arching was merely a long two, as the Storm escaped with a 79-78 victory.
Breanna Stewart led all scorers with 22 points, while Loyd had 18 for Seattle. Dearica Hamby had a career-high 19 off the bench to pace San Antonio, while Kayla McBride finished with 18 points — 16 of which came in the final quarter — and Plum had 15 and five assists in her second trip to Seattle since being taken No. 1 overall in April’s draft.
With the win — and a Chicago loss in overtime to the Sparks — Seattle now has a 1.5 game lead on the Sky for the eighth and final playoff spot in the WNBA, and they pulled into a tie with Dallas for the seventh seed.
The victory was also Seattle’s third straight since Gary Kloppenburg was named interim head coach, and the second by a one-point margin, after they knocked off Minnesota 62-61 on Wednesday night. That’s a far cry from earlier in the season, when losing streaks went on for weeks.
“I think we kind of lost our composure in the fourth [Quarter], especially when it was close,” Stewart said of the team’s close losses. “We got tight, tense. And now we know, we’ve been in these situations like we have last year. And just continuing to play with the game and trust one another.”
In the early moments of that final period on Friday, it appeared that San Antonio — winners of four of its last five entering the night — would keep it from being a close finish. After holding a three-point lead at the break, a five-point edge after three quarters, and going on an 8-2 run in the opening minutes of the fourth, the Stars had an 11-point cushion with just over seven minutes to play.
But what followed was a 20-5 Seattle run over the next five minutes, which included nine points from Stewart, to put the Storm up by four.
“We just stuck with it,” Stewart said. “We got a lot of good looks at the beginning of the game and they didn’t fall. We just continued to have confidence in our shots and be aggressive and finally get some stops on defense.”
San Antonio tied the game at 74 with approximately 90 seconds left, courtesy of a McBride three-pointer, and again at 76 with just under a minute to play with a layup from Isabelle Harrison.
Two free-throws from Alysha Clark put the Storm back up two, and after forcing a miss from Plum on the ensuing possession, Loyd was fouled, and stepped to the line for two shots with a chance to put the game on ice.
She made the first.
The second, however, was off the mark, giving San Antonio 10 seconds for one final play.
Though baseball and football commonly get the moniker of “a game of inches,” on Friday in Seattle, it was basketball.
“There wasn’t a play call,” Plum said of the final possession. “It was just get down there and get a good look. I got a pretty good look, tried to shoot a three, but it was a two.”
Instead, Seattle pulled out its second-straight one-point win, after losing its first three games of the year that had been decided by four points or less.
San Antonio head coach Vickie Johnson said her team’s turnovers, and points allowed in the paint cost them in the end.
“One thing that hurt us is turnovers, we had 16 turnovers,” she said. “We can’t win like that. Giving up 40 in the paint, can’t win like that either. I thought that their superstars really stepped up in the second half and made big shots. That’s what superstars do.”
Meanwhile, Kloppenburg pointed to his defense as what allowed the Storm to make its late run.
“We went back to using a lot of traps,” he said. “I think we forced some turnovers, Bird got a breakaway, and we got a couple of easy buckets off that. And it seemed like that energized us back up and got us back within range. And then we came down executed and hit a couple threes, and all of the sudden it’s a two-point game.”
“That’s the way these game can go. We were trying to tell them in the timeouts ‘Hang in, hang in’ because we start shooting the ball well and we can get this back pretty quickly. And I think that’s what happened.”
Seattle now embarks on a two-game road trip, and plays four of its last five away from KeyArena, starting with a crucial match up with playoff implications in Chicago on Sunday evening. San Antonio also finishes its season with four road games in its final five, a stretch that started Friday, and continues in Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Seattle is now 3-0 in the Gary Kloppenburg Era.
Moriah Jefferson did not play for the third time in the last four games, again out with left knee soreness.
Kayla McBride eclipsed the 1,500-point mark for her career on Friday.
With her 20th 20-point game of the season, Breanna Stewart tied a franchise single-season record set by Lauren Jackson.
Lanay Montgomery was the lone player to not see the court for Seattle, while Cierra Burdick did not play for San Antonio.
A short time ago, the Sparks won a double-overtime battle with the Sky,115-106. Five in double figures on each team, and three with double-doubles from Los Angeles while Chicago had two dub-dubs. Insane.
Still battling at this hour are the Storm and Stars. Our reporter will have a story soon.
Seattle – When the Storm left Seattle on a five-game road trip at the end of July, it did so with Jenny Boucek at the helm.
By the time the team returned for Wednesday’s game against Minnesota, she was gone.
After a 98-89 win in Phoenix on Friday in Gary Kloppenburg’s first game as Storm head coach, Wednesday marked his home debut in the role, against the Lindsay Whalen-less Minnesota Lynx.
And like much of the season, that match up came down to a few key moments in the game’s closing minutes. But this time, the Storm were on the right side of a close finish, as they edged out Minnesota, 62-61, in a thrilling finish.
“It’s an exciting win,” Kloppenburg said. “I’m really happy for our team just because we’ve been on the losing end of a lot of close games this year, it’s just nice to be on the other side of it for once.”
Jewell Loyd led all scorers with 16 points for a Seattle team that was without veteran point guard Sue Bird, who sat with left knee soreness. Breanna Stewart recorded her eighth double-double of the year with 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Maya Moore led Minnesota with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Sylvia Fowles had a game-high 13 boards to go along with 13 points. Combined, that duo accounted for nearly half of the team’s season-low 61 points, as the Lynx shot just 33 percent from the field for the night.
Seattle had a two-point lead after one quarter and took a 36-31 advantage into the halftime break, holding Minnesota scoreless for the final 3:54 of the second period. The Lynx quickly erased that lead in the early moments of the third, and traded baskets for much of the quarter with Minnesota up 51-49 heading into the final 10 minutes.
It wasn’t until a put back by Crystal Langhorne with 11.1 seconds to play — after corralling a shot from Loyd at the rim that was deflected by Fowles — that Seattle regained the lead.
Loyd said on the play that ended in the go-ahead bucket, she was trying to get a good look for a shot, but once the defense closed, tried to draw contact on the drive knowing there would be someone under the basket.
“Lang being the most consistent player she is, she’s right in the right spots all the time,” Loyd said.
Langhorne finished with 14 points.
For the interim coach, there may have been some good fortune involved in the win.
“We got a little bit of luck,” Kloppenburg said. “That last shot got blocked and came right down to Lang, and she put it in. I think if you’re playing hard and you’re battling every possession that you create your own luck. That may be part of it on that last play.”
A Moore jumper on the other end with four seconds left was off, and Fowles was unable to get a clean look under the basket after grabbing the rebound, before time expired.
“[I] didn’t execute by hitting the shot,” Moore said. “Of course, I want it back to try and get that shot to go in. Ultimately, the game wasn’t won or lost on that possession for us, but we gave ourselves a chance to win.”
The game also had playoff implications for Seattle, as it battles for one of the final postseason spots. At 12-16, the Storm are now one win ahead of Chicago in the win column for the eighth and final playoff spot, and are just a half-game back of seventh seed Dallas. Minnesota remains atop the league at 21-5, two games ahead of Los Angeles for the No. 1 seed.
“It was huge for us,” Langhorne said. “Our schedule’s so tough this last month, we’re just trying to get as many wins as possible.”
The Storm are back at KeyArena on Friday night to take on Kelsey Plum and the San Antonio Stars, while Minnesota returns home to play Indiana.
Minnesota won the first two matchups this season, beating the Storm in Seattle 100-77 on June 3, and 93-82 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on July 30.
Seattle is now 2-0 in the Gary Kloppenburg era.
In Bird’s absence, Noelle Quinn made her third start of the season for Seattle. She finished with six points and five assists in 27 minutes.
Rebekkah Brunson left the game in the second quarter with a left ankle injury, and did not return. She was later spotted on the Minnesota bench in a boot.
The Sun routed the Dream, 96-75. Six Connecticut players notched double figures, including two from the bench. Jonquel Jones had her seventh consecutive double-double. It’s the sixth straight win for the Sun.