Self-help gurus will often say that the first step to solving a problem is to recognize it.
So it’s curious to listen to the leaders of a Storm squad that appears to be in the midst of an end-of-season meltdown, which threatens to spoil its bid for a second consecutive WNBA championship.
Coach Noelle Quinn is reluctant to use the word – hint: it rhymes with lump – to describe a trending Seattle team, which frankly hasn’t played at a consistently high level for over a month. .
“I would characterize this as a process of growth,” she said. “Maybe a tough little pass. Just to understand that we have new players and that we are going through things together with a group that has never been together before. The external factors of what our group went through. We’ve been through a lot.
“You go into the Olympics and you throw a lot of stuff over the course of a season and you have to hit a patch where you have to go through some adversity. I am proud of our team. I am proud of the strength with which they fight, play and understand. I just hope we keep fighting together and get over it and play well before the last five games. “
Since its scintillating 12-2 start, the Storm are 6-7 in the last 13 games and 3-5 in the last eight.
During the first half of the season, Seattle won games on the perimeter. In the first 14 games, the Storm were the best three-point shooting team in the WNBA and simultaneously had the best three-point defense.
But in the last 13 games, Seattle is ranked sixth in three-point shooting percentage and 11th in three-point defense.
Of course, there are several plausible reasons for this decline.
Two weeks ago, Seattle opted to let overworked Olympic gold medalists Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird rest in a pair of games, which left the Storm shorthanded in a pair of losses.
Last week, the Storm crammed into a trip to the White House to celebrate this team’s 2020 WNBA Championship, which preceded a loss to Minnesota to wrap up a brutal five-game road trip in which Seattle won. recorded a record of 2-3.
“We kind of tripped a bit on that road trip and now we’re tripping a bit more,” said Stewart. “I don’t think that’s a cause for concern because everything is really self-inflicted. We did it ourselves. We’ve done that to ourselves on the road and it’s just a matter of finding and getting to that point where we stop the momentum from coming down and back up the momentum.
After Friday night’s 73-69 loss to Chicago Sky, Seattle (18-9) lost 2½ games behind league leader Connecticut Sun (20-6) and 1½ games behind second place Las Vegas Aces (19- 7) in WNBA. ranking.
With just five regular-season games to go, including Sunday’s 3 p.m. rematch against Chicago (13-12), there’s still a chance Seattle could secure a coveted top-two spot, ensuring a double-let. move on to the semi-finals.
However, the Storm are not yet focused on the playoffs.
“All that matters is getting back to a place where we have fun and we start to play a little better,” Bird said. “The reality is that when you get to that part of the season, the conversation around these games changes. It becomes more of a ranking issue, but it’s still just a game the same way it was a month ago and the same way it was two months ago. The only difference is the conversation around it. For us, we must not get caught up in this and just try to get back to what put us in the position we were in before the Olympic break.
“I said that to the team, I don’t care where we end up. Obviously the first and second seeds are really important to this league, the way the playoff system is set up. But I really don’t care as long as we play well. I would rather play than anything else. Emphasis must therefore be placed on that. If that unfortunately means we’re losing four out of six, that’s a bummer, but if we get to the other side of that and come to a place where we’re playing well again, that’s all that matters.
The Storm’s No.1 priority is to repair the offense, especially a perimeter attack that only converted 3 of 17 three-pointers on Friday.
And it starts with Stewart, who is 5 of 23 behind the arc since the Olympic break, having knocked down outside shots with regularity.
“You keep shooting,” Bird said. “Our team currently has an identity and three-point shooting is a big part of that. … When you do these three, when the team does them, you don’t think about why you are doing them and you don’t think about how. You do them. You are just firing when you are open.
“When people start to miss or teams start to miss, I think it’s a trap to try to answer questions about why this is happening. You have to keep taking the same shots. You can’t let that affect the next game.
Stewart mostly agrees, but she also aggressively attacked the rim late in the game for lay-ups or fouls to make up for her shoddy perimeter shot.
“It’s seeing the ball go into the basket,” said Stewart when asked how to fix the Storm’s offense. “I don’t think it’s fatigue. And fatigue isn’t an option right now either because we’re in our last push, so everyone needs to do whatever they have to do individually to make sure they’re ready. The mental mind over matter.
Stewart said everyone, including herself, needed to relax.
“Sometimes everyone gets a bit caught up in what’s going on,” she said. “The classification and this, that and the other. We need to take advantage of where we are right now. Appreciate the fact that we can be professional basketball players.
“Sometimes you lose sight of him. … When we’re a team that plays freely and has fun – even if the ball doesn’t go into the basket – you always feel like it went into the basket, and we have to get back to it.
Stewart added, “I want to win every game we walk on the pitch, but make sure our feeling and our pace is back and everyone is in a good headspace. This is the most important thing. One game at a time. We obviously want to have wins and bring that feeling to the playoffs. “