Katie Smith helped thwart a late San Antonio rally with a big 3-pointer and Tanisha Wright had 20 points to keep the Storm’s return to respectability on track.
Another second-half meltdown, there was not.
Not when 36-year-old Katie Smith plays ten-years her junior.
Smith helped the Storm (4-7) overcome a sluggish start, then hold off a late comeback in Storm’s 82-76 win over the San Antonio Silver Stars Friday night at KeyArena. The victory extended Seattles winning streak to three games to help counter the grim early-season start.
Smith stymied a furious San Antonio rally late in the fourth quarter by knocking down the game’s biggest trey with 1:46 remaining after the lead was cut to four.
“We did a nice job of spreading the defense and we had a lot of shooters on the floor,” Smith said. “Everybody’s been penetrating, so (the defenders) jumped in to help and they left me open.”
Smith helped the Storm crawl out of an early 17-11 deficit with a pair of threes in the second quarter. She finished 5-11 from the field in 33 minutes.
Her veteran presence reached well beyond the box score. The Ohio State product is averaging 7.0 points per game on 43 percent shooting from behind the arc 11 games into a season that’s tested her leadership.
“We’ve got a lot of vets on this team, so we didn’t panic at the beginning of the season when things weren’t rolling or going as well as we would have liked,” she said. “We just calmly kind of went about business, and just try to tweak and work at things we could control.”
After her three gave the Storm a 69-62 advantage, the Silver Stars mounted one more run. San Antonio shooting guard Gia Perkins knocked down a three with 24 seconds remaining to cut Seattle’s lead to three. After Tanisha Wright split a pair of free throws, Perkins answered with a desperation heave with 18 seconds left as the Storm clung to a 78-76 lead.
Bird knocked down two free throws before Wright followed with a steal and lay-in to seal the win. Wright has thrived in head coach Brian Agler’s offense after a switch to full-time point guard duties helped her end an inconsistent start to her seventh WNBA season. She made 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter and led the game with a season-best 20 points.
Agler said he remains confident in his starting backcourt down the stretch despite recent struggles. Bird’s pair of late gaffes at the foul line in Seattle’s 65-62 win over the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday nearly derailed Seattle’s biggest win of the season. On Friday, Bird finished with 10 points and three assists in 37 minutes as six Storm players finished in double figures.
“Tanisha is a great free throw shooter,” Agler said. “I think she’s hard on herself because she missed a couple, but she and Sue Bird are both tremendous free throw shooters down the stretch. Are they perfect? No, no one’s perfect.”
Bird sounded optimistic in the locker room about how her club has adapted offensively without the presence of three-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson. After shooting just south of 30 percent in the first quarter, a 15-0 run midway through the contest helped Seattle take a 32-28 halftime lead.
“I think there is still a long way to go and we can get better, but we’re starting to see our identity come out to really know what we can rely on,” she said. “Out there in a tight game you need that comfort level and we’re starting to get that and you’re seeing it in games.”