The Storm is off today, returning home from Tulsa where they lost their second consecutive game. While star Lauren Jackson looked solid despite a thumb injury, the entire team lacked the kind of energy and focus it had in building a historic 22-2 start.
Seattle had a season-high 26 turnovers against a desperate Tulsa team, itching to snap its own seven-game losing streak. With the Western Conference regular-season title secured and players more determined to end a five-year trend of being bounced in the opening round of the playoffs, it appeared the Storm shutdown to save energy for the postseason.
Storm coach Brian Agler said the team can’t afford to do that, not tapering minutes in pursuit of the WNBA’s overall best record. Indiana and Atlanta also lost on Tuesday, so Seattle’s magic number to get that spot is two.
Yet, for that seeding to matter, the Storm would have to get out of the first round. In the past, injuries and peaking too soon have played a part in the flops. Back-to-back road losses aren’t fun – and uncommon since September 2009 — but they could help the Storm regain their fire before the playoffs.
I wouldn’t bet this is the end of the losing, however, with eight games remaining. Aside from Tulsa on Saturday, every team the Storm will face is trying to either get in or gain better positioning in the postseason. Three of those games are a tough road trip to Atlanta, Connecticut, and Washington.
Making the schedule even more difficult is the Storm’s lack of practice time. Seattle (22-4) will face Connecticut (13-13) for the first time on Thursday without a full-out, on-court session to prepare for the Sun, which is on a three-game losing streak.
The Storm still has a chance to either tie or surpass the WNBA record for most wins in a season (28 set by Los Angeles). But the 1998 Houston team that finished 27-3 and won the WNBA title will remain the league’s all-time greatest — percentage-wise.
Here is Sue Bird talking to ESPN columnist Mechelle Voepel on how her team’s loses could change the Storm: