Storm heads to break with 82-75 win over Phoenix

Epiphanny Prince leads Seattle with 15 points off the bench, Katie Lou Samuelson adds 14

EVERETT, Wash. – Time running out on the 24-second clock? No sweat for the Seattle Storm.

Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird both beat the shot clock buzzer inside the final two minutes on Sunday, putting five crucial points on the scoreboard and giving the Storm just enough of a cushion to hang on and beat the Phoenix Mercury inside Angel Of The Winds Arena, 82-75.

That gave the Storm (16-5) a split of the weekend home-and-home series against the Mercury (9-10) heading into the month-long break for the Tokyo Olympics.

Bird finished with 13 points and Loyd had just eight. But Epiphanny Prince came through with a big effort off the bench, pumping in a team-high 15 points. She tallied seven of those during a 13-0 run bridging the first and second quarters. That helped Seattle turn a 23-19 deficit into a 34-26 lead, and it never trailed again.

Prince also deflated some of the Mercury’s momentum at the end of the third quarter. Phoenix had gone on a 15-4 tear to slice what had been an 18-point Storm lead (59-41) all the way down to seven (63-56). Prince buried a 3-pointer from the right of the lane to push it back to double-digits at 66-56 entering the fourth.

Seattle was up 72-61 with 7:45 left. The Mercury then tallied 11 of the next 14 points as the Storm hit just one field goal in a span of almost six minutes.

That’s when Loyd and Bird found mark. With the shot clock at 2, Loyd fired one from deep in the left corner that swished to make it 78-72 at 1:48 remaining. Kia Nurse, who was 7-of-14 from behind the arc, missed two from deep on the Mercury’s next possession. The Storm subsequently turned it over, but Phoenix turned it right back at the 1:06 mark.

Unable to find an open shot, the ball was in Bird’s hands in the right corner. She drove into the lane and lofted a short floater that banked in off the board with one second on the shot clock and 43.4 on the game clock, making it 80-72.

Phoenix closed it back to 80-75 with 37.3 seconds left. Bird missed a trey the next time downcourt, but Breanna Stewart grabbed the loose ball and was fouled by Skyler Diggins-Smith. She hit both free throws for a three-possession margin of 82-75 margin at 10.6 seconds. The Mercury turned over on a pass out of bounds coming out of a timeout and Bird dribbled out the final seven seconds.

Seattle, which shot just 38 percent from the field in Friday’s 85-77 loss at Phoenix, improved that by 10 percentage points on Sunday, hitting 48.4 percent (30 of 62).

Katie Lou Samuelson tied her career high with 14 points, matching what she had on Friday against the Mercury.

The Storm slowed down Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith after they combined for 55 points on 59.5 percent shooting on Friday. In Sunday’s rematch, they totaled 33 points between them (17 for Diggins-Smith,16 for Griner) and shot just 40 percent combined (12-of-30). Nurse finished with 28 points.

While the team is off for the next month, half of Seattle’s roster will be heading to the Olympics. Bird, Loyd, and Stewart will play for the U.S. and report to training camp on Monday. Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot are already in the Australian team camp. Samuelson will don a USA jersey for the inaugural 3-on-3 Olympic tournament.

The Storm will return to action on Aug. 12 in Phoenix for the first-ever Commissioner’s Cup final, facing the Connecticut Sun. They’ll resume league competition with a five-game road trip, starting on Sunday, Aug. 15 at Chicago at 1 p.m. (ABC). Seattle’s next home game comes on Aug. 27 as it hosts Chicago at Angel Of The Winds Arena at 7 p.m.