By Seth Dahle
Despite double-doubles from Sue Bird (21 points, 10 assists) and Breanna Stewart (23 points, 10 rebounds), the Seattle Storm couldn’t overcome eight fourth-quarter turnovers on the way to suffering a 94-86 defeat at New York on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
For Bird, it marked her 12th-career double-double and first since June 5, 2016, when Seattle faced the Liberty at KeyArena. Stewart and Bird combined to go 8-for-11 from deep, as Seattle hit at least 10 three’s in a game for the second time in 2017, going 10-for-23 from downtown. The Storm took a big loss in the final frame when Stewart fouled out for the first time in her career.
Head coach Jenny Boucek commented on the duo’s chemistry after the game.
“They’re two very smart basketball players with very good instincts,” said Boucek. ‘They have a lot of mutual respect, and that probably goes back to their college background. They get better and better all the time.”
Jewell Loyd added 19 points and five assists, including a 7-for-7 effort from the free throw line. Meanwhile, Ramu Tokashiki chipped in eight points and four rebounds.
The Liberty (6-3) led by as many as 12 before Stewart and Bird got the Storm back into the contest, but the late miscues proved too much to overcome for Seattle.
After Bird got Seattle (5-4) on the board with a midrange jumper, Tina Charles and the Liberty responded with an 11-0 run over the next two minutes. The Storm fired back with a 9-5 burst to pull within five (16-11) after a trey by Stewart, but New York notched a three from Sugar Rodgers and layup from Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe to stretch its advantage to 10. Despite trailing by seven (28-21) after the opening frame, Bird and Stewart kept Seattle in it with seven first-quarter points apiece.
In the second quarter, both teams struggled in the early going, starting a combined 0-for-7 before New York extended the gap to 11 (33-22) after a bucket by Charles. The Storm, however, ultimately found its groove by way of outside shooting from Stewart, who buried two amidst an 8-0, 58-second run to cut the deficit to four (39-35). Bird and Stewart combined for 27 first-half points, and the Storm entered the locker room down by three (43-40).
The two teams traded baskets to open the third quarter before a Bird three sparked an 11-4 run to put Seattle up 55-53 and give the Storm its first lead since it was 2-0. During the run, Seattle hit three triples, all of which came from Bird and Stewart. A three-point play by Stewart gave Seattle a 61-58 advantage, and her bucket in the final moments of the stanza put the Storm up 66-65 entering the fourth.
A tough leaner by Bird made it 68-67 Storm with 8:21 left to play, but Charles worked her way inside for four points amidst a 7-0 Liberty run to put New York back in front by six (74-68). Four straight points from Loyd trimmed the margin to two, and then Crystal Langhorne scored inside to tie it at 74.
Two free throws by Rodgers put the advantage (78-76) back into the hands of the Liberty, and then Stewart fouled out on New York’s next possession at the 4:27 mark. Loyd’s and-one notched the 10th lead change of the game to put Seattle up one (81-80), and then Loyd put in two more at the line to extend it to three.
The seesaw battle continued down the stretch, as Shavonte Zellous hit the game-tying three and then Bria Hartley scored on the fastbreak to put New York back up two (85-83) with 2:16 left to play. Alysha Clark went 1-for-2 at the line before Kiah Stokes cleaned up a miss for New York to make it a three-point (87-84) game, and Seattle committed three straight turnovers to doom its chances of completing the comeback.
Charles led the way for New York with 21 points and 14 boards, while Zellous added 16 points.
Seattle heads back to KeyArena to face Atlanta on Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT. 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).