SEATTLE — With one shot, Shavonte Zellous quieted the KeyArena crowd of 5,819.
The Indiana Fever forward took a baseline pass from Briann January and made an open 3-pointer as time expired to give the Fever a 68-66 victory over the Storm on Thursday night, spoiling center Lauren Jackson’s return to the lineup after missing the first 22 games with obligations to the Australian national team.
Zellous’ shot capped off a 15-0 run that turned a 13-point deficit with four minutes and three seconds left to play in the game into an Indiana victory. It was the Storm’s third consecutive home loss, their worst such stretch since June of 2006.
“I think they stole one,” Storm point guard Sue Bird said. “We had a chance to just really put them away and end the game and we just kind of relaxed and let them stay in it and they slowly crept in and before you knew it the buzzer is going off and they are hitting a three.”
Ironically, Zellous wasn’t in the game for her offense. She replaced guard Erin Phillips with 40.1 seconds to play in the game for defensive purposes. The Fever were able to stop the Storm’s offense and rather than calling a timeout to set up a final play, elected to play on.
“When you call timeout it allows a team to set up their defense and to talk about things,” Bird said of the Fever’s decision to not call timeout. “In that situation you just have to figure it out on the fly.”
Jackson showed only brief moments of what she is capable of in her return and finished with just four points and six rebounds and committed two costly turnovers during the Fever’s run to close the game. She wasn’t alone. The Storm played sloppy as a team — on both sides of the ball — in the game’s final minutes.
“I thought we got outplayed the last four minutes of the game,” Storm head coach Brian Agler said. “We had some turnovers, missed shots, turnovers both in the backcourt and in the frontcourt and gave them some offensive rebounds.”
Agler said he certainly didn’t relax with the lead, but he can see how some could view that his team did.
“I can tell you that I didn’t relax, but from a vantage point of watching the game I could see how people thought we may have,” Agler said. “I think we were up eight or nine with 2:44 to go or something like that. Like I said, they made some big plays.”
The Storm led from the waning moments of the second quarter all the way up until Zellous’ game-winner. But even while building a lead, the team looked sloppy at times and though Jackson played 24 minutes she sometimes looked uncomfortable on the floor and the offense didn’t have the same flow.
“There has to be a comfort level,” Bird said. “And for Lauren, she has to get comfortable with what we are doing, both offensively and defensively and kind of get back into the swing of things. It’s not easy, you know, I think the hardest thing about going from one team to another is philosophies and trying to remember and figuring that out quickly.”
Jackson said physically she felt OK, but could sense that something wasn’t right.
“I think I did better than I thought I would,” Jackson said of adjusting to the time difference between Australia and the U.S. “I think I’m getting up and down the court better. I just didn’t fit in. It doesn’t help the girls with a presence like mine coming in and not knowing the plays.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.