Storm pulls away from Chicago for 80-73 victory
Tanisha Wright hands out 11 assists and Sue Bird keys play down stretch for Seattle.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Guard Temeka Johnson crumpled the stat sheet from Thursday night’s Storm loss as teammate Tanisha Wright spoke of the disgust the players had for their performance against Los Angeles.
On Saturday against Chicago, Wright orchestrated how basketball should be played in an 80-73 win before 6,387 at KeyArena.
“I wanted to be able to come out and set the tone,” Wright said. “I understand I can be infectious in that way with how hard I play, my effort, my attitude, my demeanor on the court. I wanted to be intentional about that.”
Tied at 60 points apiece headed into the fourth quarter, Wright, the Storm’s leader on defense, helped teammates force four early turnovers in the quarter. Then Wright found teammate Camille Little behind the arc for a three-pointer to give Seattle a 71-69 lead with 3:34 left in the game.
Chicago responded. But so did Wright.
This time to teammate Sue Bird for a jumper while being fouled. Bird hit the free throw to give the Storm a 76-72 lead with 1:07 left.
After an extended timeout as officials reviewed a play, Seattle forced another Sky turnover — the fifth in the quarter. Wright closed out the scoring at the foul line.
She finished with nine points and a season-high 11 assists. Bird and forward Crystal Langhorne led Seattle with 19 points apiece. Little, who returned to the lineup after attending her grandfather’s funeral, finished with 18 points.
“The good thing about tonight’s game is we didn’t play perfect,” said Bird, whose team swept Chicago for the first time since 2008. “It was a collective effort. We’ve been talking about our defense and how it hasn’t been up to par in terms of our expectations (so) we wanted to be more disruptive and not give them easy looks.”
Seattle’s change was evident in the first quarter.
The Storm didn’t commit a turnover and shot 62.5 percent from the field in the first quarter to set the tone against Chicago (8-10). Seattle finished with a season-low six turnovers.
Agler didn’t have the Storm (8-12) run a long practice to work on the errors in Thursday’s loss to Los Angeles. Some players released the frustrations in the form of firecrackers to celebrate Fourth of July. Others joined for the show at Lake Union.
“It was good to have a mental rest and forget about L.A.,” Langhorne said.
The Sky played without All-Stars Elena Delle Donne (Lyme disease) and Courtney Vandersloot (knee). The Sky is 1-2 without Vandersloot, the team’s point guard and Kentwood High product. The former Gonzaga star suffered her injury in the final seconds against New York on June 27.
Vandersloot, 25, is hopeful to return within the projected 6- to 10-week rehab timetable.
Rookie Jamierra Faulkner replaced Vandersloot. She had nine points and five assists. Chicago’s Jessica Breland had 20 points and nine rebounds and Sylvia Fowles had 19 points and 11 rebounds.
“Until we can marry our head with our heart, then get that to our legs, we’re still going to keep coming up short,” Chicago coach Pokey Chatman said.