Storm lose late lead, drop second straight

Mercedes Russell elevates for two of her career-high 19 points on the day. Neil Enns/Storm photos.
Mercedes Russell elevates for two of her career-high 19 points on the day. Neil Enns/Storm photos.

En route to their 2018 championship, the Seattle Storm did something that few teams accomplish, even at their peak.

Across 34 regular season games, Seattle avoided losing back-to-back contests.

But if the Storm’s shorthanded roster and dual home venues weren’t proof enough, this isn’t 2018.

And while the team was able to stretch that streak to almost 50 games without the services of Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, and now, Jewell Loyd, Seattle is now facing the prospect of something it hasn’t since August of 2017: A losing streak.

Despite taking a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter on Wednesday against New York, a dominant performance in the final minutes by Tina Charles propelled the Liberty past Seattle 84-83, handing the Storm its second straight loss.

Charles finished with a game-high 26 to lead New York (6-7), including the Liberty’s final 11 points. That stretch began after the team had already used a 10-0 run in the first three minutes of the fourth to tie the game at 70.

It remained a one possession game on either side for the rest of the quarter, with the teams trading the lead until a Charles hook shot with just over a minute to play gave New York the lead for good.

Seattle (8-7) had a chance to win it in their final possession, but a Jordin Canada three bounced out with five seconds left, and Alysha Clark’s put back rimmed out as time expired.

“We got a good shot and missed it,” said Storm head coach Dan Hughes. “We got a second good shot inside. We just needed one more play.”

Meanwhile, Charles’ late game heroics would have been for naught if not for a steadying effort by Kia Nurse, who had 22 of her 24 points in the first three quarters to keep the game within reach.

“We need those guards to be in an attack mentality,” said Liberty head coach Katie Smith. “We need them to look to score. I think Nurse has worked on her game during the offseason, her pick and rolls, shooting her pullups, obviously she’s a three baller, and finishing around the rim. She continues to work and expand her game and get better.”

For Seattle, the loss overshadowed a strong performance from center Mercedes Russell, who finished with a career-high 19 points.

“I thought she really did a great job of creating step ins and things where we can throw it to her,” Hughes said. “The team continues to look for her more which has got to be a theme. It’s evolving and its kind of true of this team we have on the floor right now.”

All five Storm starters finished in double figures.

Seattle continues its six-game home stand on Friday against Atlanta, while the Liberty head to Phoenix for a Friday night tilt with the Mercury.