SEATTLE — Throw out one bad fourth quarter against the Chicago Sky and the Seattle Storm have put together a three-game stretch that is arguably better than any they have had all season.
The gem of those three games came Tuesday night when Seattle coasted to a 77-57 victory over the Los Angeles Sparks, who came into the game just a half-game behind Minnesota for the WNBA’s best record.
The loss ended the Sparks’ six-game winning streak, which was the longest streak in the league and the 20-point margin of victory was the largest of the season for the Storm.
“I think we are improving,” Storm head coach Brian Agler said after the game. “I think we are gradually getting better. We are figuring out the things we have to do to play well.”
The Storm also have been getting improved play from two of their veterans, guard Tanisha Wright and forward Tina Thompson, who undoubtedly will play key roles if Seattle is going to earn a playoff berth and make any noise in the postseason.
Thompson followed her 23-point performance in Saturday’s victory over Indiana with 17 points on Tuesday. She shot 6-for-11 from the field, including 3-for-5 from 3-point range. Thompson also grabbed 10 rebounds to move into a tie with Taj McWilliams-Franklin for second in WNBA history at 3,013.
Thompson handled the boards, and Wright played facilitator for her teammates, dishing out a season-high nine assists. Wright had eight of those assists before halftime and also scored 12 points in the game.
Many of Wright’s assists went to point guard Temeka Johnson, who after several games without a breakout scoring effort, had one of her best games of the season. Johnson finished 7-for-10 from the field and led all scorers with 18 points.
“The games that I wasn’t scoring, Tanisha and Tina was,” Johnson said. “It came from everybody else, so I wasn’t too worried about it. I never get concerned about scoring, I kind of let the game come to me and I continue to facilitate and the more I open up things the more things open up for me. I’m happy that I was able to score tonight because it helped us get a W.”
The Storm outscored the Sparks by 12 (28-16) in the second quarter to help build a 14-point halftime lead.
In the second half, defense finished the job. The Storm held the Sparks to just 20 points after halftime, including a season-low four points in the final quarter.
“We have been talking about defense from day one,” Johnson said. “The one thing that I can say is that we’ve gotten better every day and that’s been our goal. We compete every day and we get better every day. That’s the one thing that we want to hang our hats on.”
The Storm won consecutive home games for the first time this season and finished their five-game home stand with a 3-2 record. It would have been 4-1 with three straight victories if it weren’t for their fourth-quarter collapse against Chicago last Thursday.
The key in the Storm’s recent success has been efficient offense.
“The games we’ve lost (at KeyArena) are ones that we’ve not scored,” Agler said. “We’ve had serious droughts during the course of the game. When you get like that and your defense is consistently in transition, you don’t get set and it’s tougher to defend them.
“So if we can find ways to score consistently throughout the game, then we can guard most teams for a period of time, but if we go in droughts or start turning the ball over that’s when we become very suspect defensively.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.