The Seattle Storm's 78-69 loss to the Chicago Sky this evening might have been their toughest loss of the year.
Despite early shooting struggles again, the Storm snapped out of it in the third quarter to shoot 65 percent, including 4-for-7 shooting from the 3-point line, to take a slim 55-54 lead into the fourth quarter.
But once again, it was a younger team stepping up in the fourth quarter that beat the Storm.
After forward Camille Little made one of two free throws with 1:56 left to bring the Storm within two points, second year guard Epiphanny Prince used a little stutter step to drive by Little on the wing to put the Sky up 73-69 with 1;04 left. On the next possession, Prince got a steal from Tanisha Wright and got the ball to rookie Courtney Vandersloot who casually found center Sylvia Fowles in transition for a layup and a free throw attempt to put the Sky up 76-69 and from there it as just a matter of time before the Storm added a game to the loss column.
That sequence during the final two minutes of the game pretty much embodies what contributed to the Storm's loss - although they played reasonably well defensively in stretches, they were able to consistently contain Fowles (team-high 24 points) or Prince (23 points) and Vandersloot found the team's two dynamic scorers to facilitate the damage. All three were named All-Star reserves in the Eastern Conference during the game and all three showed why they were selected by the coaches tonight.
But the Storm are not without star power of their own and tonight it was All-Star starter Sue Bird carrying to the Storm to yet another near-victory. Bird finished with a game-high 26 points, four assists, and four rebounds including a four point play at the end of the first half to help the Storm take a 33-30 lead into halftime.
Storm center Ashley Robinson got her first start of the season and was crucial to their first half rebounding effort, finishing with a career-high 14 points and 10 rebounds for her first double-double of the season. Although Fowles is certainly the stronger player, Robinson's agility and quickness proved valuable as she was able to score on cuts to the basket and block three shots.
The Storm conclude their road trip at 0-3 and things won't get easier as they return home to face the San Antonio Silver Stars again on Thursday at 7 p.m. PST.