Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
SEATTLE — It would appear the Seattle Storm learned a lesson from Thursday’s letdown against the San Antonio Stars.
Seattle led by three points in the final seconds of regulation in their WNBA loss to the Stars, but allowed Danielle Adams to get an open look at a 3-pointer from the baseline with 6.5 seconds remaining. Adams hit the shot, sending the game to overtime.
The Storm found themselves in a similar position Sunday, leading Washington by three points with 8.7 seconds remaining in overtime.
This time, the Storm defense was determined not to allow an open look. Ivory Latta’s contested 3-pointer hit off the front rim as time expired and the Storm escaped with an 89-86 victory — their second win over the Mystics this season.
“It’s a tricky situation,” Storm point guard Sue Bird said of being up three in the final seconds when the opponent has the basketball. “There are a lot of theories on what to do. It’s so easy to sit at home and say, ‘Oh, you should have done this,’ but it’s not that easy in the heat of the moment. For us, we just wanted to bear down and get that stop and not have history repeat itself from the other night.”
One thing that repeated itself was Bird’s offensive production. She followed up her season-high 23 points on Thursday with 21 Sunday and shot 50 percent or better for a second consecutive game.
After struggling offensively early in the season, Bird has been more aggressive recently.
“It kind of goes both ways,” Bird said. “Yes, I’m trying to be more aggressive, but I think I was really pressing (earlier in the season). There was a period of time there where I was stressing about it and pressing. Now I’m just letting the game come to me. Am I being aggressive? Yes, but not to the point where it’s detrimental to myself and to my team.”
Bird made three 3-pointers and the Storm knocked down a season-high 12 shots from beyond the arc, just two off the team record for a game.
“It’s what makes basketball interesting,” Storm head coach Brian Agler said. “Some games you shoot the ball well and sometimes you don’t. And some games, when things really fall into place, you have a collection of people who shoot the ball well and that’s what happened tonight for us.”
A close game throughout, Seattle led 62-60 entering the final quarter before the offense went cold. The Storm missed their first five shots and eight of their first nine in the period allowing the Mystics to build a six-point lead.
“We missed some good opportunities in the fourth quarter and I thought we got a little big stagnant, but we bounced back in overtime,” Agler said.
With the perimeter shots not falling, the Storm made an effort to get Camille Little the ball in the post. Little didn’t shoot well from the field, finishing 5-for-17, but did get to the free-throw line consistently, where she made 12 of her 14 attempts.
Little converted two free throws to cap a 6-0 run that tied the game 72-72 with 1:59 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Mystics broke the tie 20 seconds later when Monique Currie’s three-point play gave Washington a 75-72 lead.
As she has so many times before, Bird came up clutch for the Storm, connecting on her third 3-pointer of the game on the following possession to tie the score at 75.
The Storm seized control in overtime when Noelle Quinn’s 3-pointer with 3:04 remaining gave them an 82-77 lead. Washington fought back to cut Seattle’s lead to one, but would never lead again.
“I think what happened on Thursday night helped us tonight,” Agler said. “I could just see a little bit more grit, determination and persistence down the stretch.”
Quinn’s shot might have been the biggest of the night, but the Storm would have never been in position to win if it weren’t for the outside shooting of guard Shekinna Stricklen. Stricklen finished 4-for-6 from long range, her only misses coming on difficult contested looks.
“She’s got a lot of confidence,” Agler said of Stricklen. “She’s shooting the ball well and she had a really good offseason in Korea. She’s played some good basketball for us. That’s definitely a strength of hers, there’s no question.”
Bria Hartley, who like Bird is a University of Connecticut product, led Washington with 26 points — her career high — and shot 11-for-16 from the field.
“She’s got a great ability to score,” Bird said of Hartley. “She can do even more, you know, getting her teammates involved. Tonight she was hot and they were trying to get her a lot of different actions, pick and rolls and things like that, and she took advantage of it.”
The Storm selected Hartley with the seventh pick in the 2014 WNBA draft before trading her to Washington in the deal that brought Crystal Langhorne to Seattle.
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.