Each Storm player stared aimlessly at the ground as she repeated the same phrase: It was right there.
Some held their hands in a circular shape, as if clutching an imaginary ball, but the illusion was just as empty as their rebounding against the visiting San Antonio Silver Stars.
The Storm was outrebounded 18-4 on the offensive glass, giving up 21 second-chance points to help the once-lowly Silver Stars collect their fourth consecutive road win, 89-87 at KeyArena on Sunday. San Antonio rookie Sophia Young made three free throws in the closing seconds to give San Antonio the win.
Seattle could have made the rebounding disparity a moot point. Shooting guard Betty Lennox — who entered the game in the closing seconds after not playing most of the second half — had an open look from 10 feet with 2.9 seconds remaining. The basket would have forced overtime.
Instead Lennox missed, and the Storm — which led by seven with four minutes left — was left hanging, like all of those rebounds it should have grabbed.
"One category sticks out, and that's offensive rebounds," Storm guard Sue Bird said. "If we won, people wouldn't be as pissed off, we'd be all right, because I do think there is something to be said for a team who can win even when things aren't going their way, even when they get outplayed in certain ways. In that regard, that's just us not making the plays that we need to down the stretch. But [Tuesday] in practice, offensive rebounds is definitely going to be talked about."
The Storm (3-3) was missing veteran forward Wendy Palmer, who is out with tendinitis in her left Achilles. Palmer, a 6-foot-2 10-year vet, is the team's leading rebounder (7.6). Fellow newcomer Tiffani Johnson replaced Palmer in the post, but had more fouls (five) than boards (one).
Storm coach Anne Donovan pointed out it wasn't just her interior players who had difficulties getting a hand on the ball. Bird and Lennox failed to collect a single offensive rebound, as did all of the reserves. Meanwhile, San Antonio guards Shannon Johnson, who's 5-7, and 5-9 Vickie Johnson had three offensive boards apiece.
"We didn't focus on it," said Donovan, who again benched Bird early so the point guard could get her head into the game. "We talked about it at halftime, came back in the second half, thought we had taken care of it and we gave up critical ones at critical times."
The Storm led 46-37 at the break, going on a shooting spree with seven made three-pointers. But the glaring rebounding problem was evident; Seattle had one offensive rebound while San Antonio scored 13 points off of 14 offensive boards.
Toying with an 82-77 lead in the fourth quarter, the Storm appeared to have gained control of the game after center Janell Burse grabbed a defensive rebound from a badly missed shot by Kendra Wecker. But after Bird hit a running jumper, the defensive-minded Silver Stars went on a 7-2 run to tie the score at 84.
Later, forward Iziane Castro Marques fouled Young as she grabbed an offensive rebound, and the rookie made both free throws. The Storm still had a chance, but Burse's pass inside to Jackson resulted in a turnover, and Jackson fouled Young to put San Antonio (4-2) back on the line to build a two-point lead.
Burse collected the rebound off Young's missed second free throw. But the play designed during the Storm's timeout didn't result in Lennox erasing one continuous wrong with a jump shot gone right.
"To come so close and play so well offensively as a team as a whole, it's kinda devastating is what it is," said Lennox, who only played 13 minutes as Donovan went for rebounding and defense in the second half. "San Antonio is a different team [this season], and we just didn't stay in it."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com