Once again, the Seattle Storm have shown that shooting 68% in the first half doesn't win you the game if you only score 9 points in the third quarter.
The game began with both teams staying relatively close in score. Alysha Clark made some fabulous moves in the post and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis hit a couple jumpers in the first quarter to keep the Fever's lead down to 3 going into the second quarter, while on the other end, Shenise Johnson scored 9 points for Indiana before being benched with 2:18 to go with two personal fouls. The second quarter saw the Storm actually pull ahead behind even scoring from all of the Storm's usual offenders (Sue Bird, Jewel Loyd, and Crystal Langhorne, to name a few), and the Storm ended the half leading 43-37.
It all went downhill in the third quarter. The Storm were outscored 30-9 in 10 excruciating minutes, almost completely failing to score while the Fever rallied behind their MVP Tamika Catchings to hit shot after shot. Sue Bird had some very un-Sue like moments, turning the ball over by driving into traffic, missing open jumpers, even missing two cruicial layups in the fourth quarter. The Storm committed turnover after turnover and gave up countless offensive rebounds, especially to Layshia Clarendon. At the end of the third quarter, the Storm was losing 67-52. Their scoring struggles continued into the fourth quarter, and the final score was Indiana 75, Seattle 63.
Tamika Catchings had a nice statline for Indiana, scoring 14 points and 3 rebounds, assists, and steals apiece. Shenise Johnson finished with 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. On the Storm's side, Jewel Loyd was once again the saving grace with her 15 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist. She also had 3 turnovers, but hey, nobody's perfect, especially when they're being guarded by Briann January.
Seattle shot an icy 60% from the free throw line throughout the game, but that's okay since they barely had any attempts, right? The referees weren't of much help, making several questionable calls in Indiana's favor through the second and third quarters- not that perfect officiation would have changed the outcome.
This was a must-win for Indiana as they struggle to hold on to their second-place position in the Eastern Conference and a must-lose for Seattle as they struggle to retain last-place in the West. At this point, the Storm has a snowball's chance in hell of winning the championship, so it seems prudent to cut our losses now and hope that we lose enough games to stay beneath San Antonio and thus put ourselves in the best possible position for a #1 draft pick. Not that I think the Storm should lose games on purpose, but the way this season has been going, it's really six of one, half a dozen of the other.
A brief explanation of how the draft will work next year, as the league recently saw fit to change the rules in the Storm's favor:
The four teams with the worst record in the previous two regular seasons are all entered into a lottery in which the order of the teams' selection of four rookie players is determined. The team with the worst two-year record has a 44.2% chance of getting the first pick, the team with second worst record has a 27.6% chance of getting the first pick, the third worst has a 17.8% chance, and the best of the worst has a 10.4% chance. This is contrary to previous years, in which only the single last season determined which team got which percent of the lottery tickets. In addition, the team with the worst two-year record is guaranteed to get at least the third overall draft pick.
All of this is to the Storm's advantage, as we were (lucky us!) the worst of both conferences last year, and most likely will be this year, putting us in prime position for that #1 spot in the 2016 draft. This really should take the sting off of these disappointing losses, but somehow it totally doesn't.