By Matthew Roberson
Despite a red-hot third quarter in which Seattle shot over 72 percent and led by five, the Storm couldn’t hang on in the final moments, falling to Indiana by an 83-80 margin on Friday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Seattle dropped to 5-3 on the year and suffered its first loss of the season to Indiana to move the series to 2-1.
With two free throws at the 9:16 mark of the second quarter, Sue Bird moved to ninth in the all-time record books for scoring in the WNBA, passing DeLisha Milton-Jones. She finished with a season-high 11 points to go along with six assists.
Jewell Loyd poured in 25 points to lead the Storm, with Breanna Stewart close behind with 23 of her own, setting a new season-high. Stewart also grabbed nine rebounds, the most of any Seattle player.
The three-point win for Indiana (4-5) was keyed by a team-high 19 points from Erica Wheeler and career-high 17 points from Natalie Achonwa in 29 minutes off the bench. Candice Dupree also had a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds.
The beginning of the game was characterized by sloppy play from both teams. Indiana was without its starting point guard Briann January, who was sidelined by an Achilles injury, The first frame was an incredibly evenly matched 10 minutes, including five ties and ending with the two teams knotted at 21. Head coach Jenny Boucek elected to play her starters for the entire duration of the first quarter, and the group responded by nailing five of eight three-pointers.
An Alysha Clark left-handed floater cut Seattle’s deficit to one (32-31) with 4:28 to play in the second quarter, but Indiana’s offense began to click late in the stanza. The Fever led by as many as seven in the first half, before reaching halftime with a 44-39 advantage. Stewart had a Seattle-high five rebounds at halftime to go along with nine points. Turnovers were a bugaboo for the Storm in the first half, as it coughed it up seven times. However, Seattle stayed close thanks to its hot outside shooting.
Seattle opened the second half with tremendous ball movement, earning an easy bucket at the rim and a corner three for Clark. The Storm took its first lead (50-48) of the half on a Stewart three-pointer in transition from the top of the key to cap an 8-0 run. She was a big reason the Storm kept in front in the third, tallying 12 of the team’s 27 points.
With Seattle up five (66-61), Indiana opened the game’s final stretch with a 10-0 run to reclaim the lead, 71-66. A Crystal Langhorne jump hook with 6:31 to play snapped the Fever’s hot streak. Indiana began to pull away after that, continuing to attack Seattle in the paint and opening up a five-point lead.
Three points was as close as Seattle would get the rest of the way. Boucek received a technical foul with 41.6 seconds left for arguing a foul called on Stewart, but Seattle still had a chance to tie it in the final seconds. Bird found some space on the left wring, but her three clanked off the rim to seal the 83-80 win for Indiana.
Seattle caps its three-game road trip on Sunday at New York, with tipoff set for 12 p.m. PDT. Fans can secure the best seats in the house with Storm 360 Memberships, available now, starting at $180, available online or by calling (206) 217-WNBA (9622). Packages and group discounts are available at 206-217-WNBA (9622).