By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Seattle Storm head coach Brian Agler said after Thursday’s loss to Indiana that his team wasn’t making enough “winning plays” during their seven-game losing streak.
The Storm made those plays on Sunday and they couldn’t have come at a better time.
Seattle survived an 18-point comeback and a four-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to claim a 71-65 victory over the San Antonio Stars.
“Several people made plays,” Agler said. “People that have watched us play over the year, that’s what they’re used to seeing down the stretch. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”
A loss would have ended the Storm’s faint hopes of making the postseason for a WNBA-record 11th consecutive season.
As she’s done so many times before, Sue Bird made several of the “winning plays” down the stretch.
She hit a baseline jumper with 2:35 to play in the final quarter to give Seattle a 62-59 lead.
Moments later, a precise pass from Bird to Crystal Langhorne on a pick-and-roll drew a foul with two minutes remaining in the final quarter. Langhorne converted the free throw to extend the Storm’s lead to 65-61.
Bird followed that with a quick steal and layup, giving Seattle a six-point lead and bringing the KeyArena crowd of 5,736 to its feet.
“It was just a couple of consecutive plays that I was able to be a part of and able to make,” Bird said. “We saw something that was working and we stuck with it, and it just created openings.”
Langhorne finished with a game-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Storm.
“We fought,” she said. “This team is tough. It’s been hard, but we keep fighting.”
The Storm looked like they would cruise to victory in the first half, holding a comfortable double-digit lead. But just as the Stars did in their last visit to KeyArena when they forged a late comeback and went on to win in overtime, San Antonio clawed its way back into the game.
Danielle Robinson’s driving baseline layup with 6:06 to play in the fourth quarter gave the Stars their first lead since they were up 4-2 in the opening minutes of the game. San Antonio extended the lead to four and Agler was forced to call timeout.
“You don’t go into the huddle in that moment and say, ‘here we go again,’” Agler said. “You deal with the situation that you’re dealt with at that time.”
Led by their veteran point guard, the Storm did just that.
Though the Storm mathematically stayed alive for a spot in the playoffs, the chances still look bleak. They would have to win the rest of their games and have Los Angeles lose all of its games to catch the Sparks. They own the tiebreaker over the Stars, but their margin for error isn’t much bigger.
Bird finished with 10 points and four assists.
“Hopefully a taste of this (win) can help propel us for the rest of the season,” Bird said. “I know that it doesn’t look good for us, but truth be told, anything can happen. All we can do is just take care of ourselves. That’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.