Seattle – What was once a 20-point Seattle lead had dwindled to four.
And with just over four minutes to play on Sunday against Atlanta, the Storm was suddenly at risk of letting a winnable game slip away, when a loss would significantly hurt their hopes of hosting a playoff game.
“They were able to get a lot more easy shots, a lot more shots on the rim and we had to
tighten back up on defense,” said Storm forward Alysha Clark.
With that new renewed defensive intensity, Seattle answered by holding the Dream to just two points the rest of the way, en route to a 92-75 victory. It was a big one for the Storm, which lost four of their last five games and had seemed to lack energy in last week’s two losses, in particular.
Jordin Canada finished with a career-high 21 points and game-high eight assists to lead Seattle (16-15), while Alysha Clark scored 16 and Natasha Howard 14, along with grabbing a game-high eight rebounds. Renee Montgomery and Monique Billings both had 15 points for Atlanta (7-24), as two of four players in double-figures.
“We had a definite sense of urgency that I hadn’t seen the last couple of games,” said Storm head coach Dan Hughes. “I think, in a lot of ways, we are learning to play in these big games in a couple of positions and we just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep battling. And today, what I saw was a team that had a sense of urgency to deal with what’s needed to roll into the playoffs.”
Seattle was in control for much of the first three quarters, playing one of their best offensive halves of the year to take a 17-point lead the break with a season-high 53 first-half points on 63 percent shooting (22-for-35).
The Storm lead was 20 with just over three minutes left in the third before Atlanta began to chip away. By the end of the quarter, the gap was 14, while an 11-2 run mid-way through the fourth made it a two-possession game at 77-73.
“We’re tenacious, “Billings said. “We’re never just going to give up a game. I honestly didn’t know that we brought it up to four until coach told us. I wasn’t even looking at the score, I was just trying to play one possession at a time just doing the best that I could to help the team. I think we just all came together collectively.”
But that’s where their run ended.
Atlanta went 0-for-4 from the field over the final four minutes, while the Seattle defense forced three turnovers to seal the win.
“Over the years we’ve had trouble with Atlanta,” Hughes said. And they’re going to have some runs … but you have to be able to answer the runs and I think we did that.”
In the ever-evolving race for playoff seeding, Seattle remains a half-game behind Minnesota (an 81-73 winner over Indiana on Sunday) for the No. 6 seed. Both teams gained a game on Phoenix, which lost 105-78 in Chicago.
Seattle and Atlanta are back in action on Tuesday, with the Storm in Phoenix for the first game of a three-city road swing to wrap up the regular season, while the Dream head to Los Angeles to take on the Sparks.
Aside from the seeding implications, Hughes said there’s a lot at stake for his team in these final three games.
“To do damage in the playoffs,” he said, “we’ve got to do damage on this road trip.”
- Attendance: 9,000 (sellout)
- With the win, Seattle takes the season-series 2-1. The Storm won the lone meeting in Atlanta, 82-66 on May 31, while Atlanta won the first matchup in Seattle 77-66 on July 3.
- Faces in the Crowd: 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Debbie Armstrong was on hand for Sunday’s game, and introduced during a fourth-quarter break.