Storm fall to Mercury, 86-77

PHOENIX – The Seattle Storm got the shots they wanted – just not the results they wanted.

Jewell Loyd scored 16 points, and Breanna Stewart logged her 10th double-double of the season, but Seattle was frosty from the field on Friday night and dropped an 86-77 decision to the Phoenix Mercury inside Phoenix Suns Arena.

It was just the second loss in 10 road games this season for the Storm (15-5).

Seattle hit just 29 of 76 from the floor (38.2 percent). Phoenix shot at a 47.1 clip (33 of 70).

However, the Storm did head back to Seattle for Sunday’s rematch against the Mercury with some positive news. They will be the Western Conference team in the Commissioner’s Cup final right back in Phoenix on Thursday, Aug. 12 following the Olympic break. That became firm about an hour after Friday’s final buzzer when Las Vegas fell at home to the Minnesota Lynx, 77-67.

Seattle and the Aces were the only two teams left in contention for the West’s berth. The Storm is 7-2 in Cup play and Vegas 5-4 with just one game left for both teams prior to the break. Connecticut clinched the East’s berth on Friday by downing Atlanta, 84-72. The Sun are 8-1 in Cup qualifying play and two games ahead of Chicago (6-3) with one game left.

The Mercury (9-9) closed the first half with a 16-7 run, turning a 27-23 deficit into a 39-34 lead by halftime. They expanded it to as many as eight points in the third quarter, the last time at 51-43.

Seattle put together a 14-5 scoring surge, edging ahead 57-56 on a pair of Jordin Canada free throws with 2:26 left in the third.

But that was the Storm’s last lead of the night. The Mercury scored the last four points of the third and the first basket of the fourth as part of a 12-4 run to move in front, 68-61. Seattle got as close as two at 70-68 with six minutes still left on the clock.

Phoenix extended the margin back to 79-70 with 2:56 to go. The Storm came as close as one possession at 80-77 at the 29-second mark before Skylar Diggins-Smith drained four straight free throws to cap a 12-point quarter and a 26-point night, effectively clinching the game.

Stewart went for 15 points and 13 rebounds, her second straight double-double and 45th of her career.

Sue Bird dished the 3,000th assist of her career, finding Mercedes Russell for a short shot straight in front of the hoop with 2:52 left in the third.

All five Seattle starters scored in double figures, the second time of the season that has happened. Along with Loyd’s 16 and Stewart’s 15, Katie Lou Samuelson chipped in a career-high 14, Russell had 12 and Bird 10.

Brittney Griner racked up a double-double of 29 points and 15 rebounds for the Mercury.

The Storm was without the services of key reserves Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot, as both have reported to the Australian national team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. The Mercury played without Diana Taurasi, who was nursing a hip injury.

Seattle wraps up the pre-Olympics portion of its schedule on Sunday at home against Phoenix. Tip-off inside Angel Of The Winds Arena at 3:00 p.m. (JOEtv).