Storm rallies in fourth quarter, wins third straight under interim coach

Seattle wins by a point over San Antonio when former UW star Kelsey Plum’s long shot is ruled a two-pointer.

A week ago the Storm was circling the drain after firing its coach, losing its fifth straight game and falling out of the playoff chase.

But now look at them.

Seattle is riding a three-game winning streak – its longest since May 28 – following a thrilling come-from-behind 79-78 victory over San Antonio on Friday night in front of 9,686 at Key­Arena.

SUNDAY

Storm @ Chicago, 3 p.m.

It was the second straight one-point win for a team that was 1-9 in its previous 10 games decided by 10 points or less under former coach Jenny Boucek.

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“It’s the pro game, and sometimes that happens when there’s a coaching change,” said interim coach Gary Kloppenburg. “For players, it kind of hits them like wow, and maybe they feel responsible, which is a natural reaction.

“My philosophy is just get them ready to play extremely hard. And it starts with the defensive end. For the most part, we have improved in that area.”

The Storm relied on its newly implemented harassing and trapping defense, forcing 17 turnovers that led to 21 points.

“Klop is known for his defense, and we’ve been doing a lot of different things on the defensive end to try to get us going,” said Sue Bird, who returned from a one-game absence due to left-knee soreness and finished with 14 points and six assists. “It’s not always going to work, but if you stay with it, eventually you’ll get some steals, which turned into some easy baskets.

“He’s definitely brought a defensive identity to our team.”

For most of Friday’s game, Seattle’s defense was nonexistent as San Antonio shot 51.1 percent through three quarters and led the Storm 65-54 with 7:10 remaining.

“At that point, I’m thinking get stops,” said Jewell Loyd, who had 18 points and four assists. “Right off the bat, we got a trap and Sue got a steal. … And we made them take some tough shots.”

Breanna Stewart, who finished with 22 points and nine rebounds, canned a three-pointer with 2:21 left that put Seattle ahead 74-70 and capped a 20-5 spurt.

San Antonio’s Kayla McBride (18 points) answered with a three-pointer that tied the score at 74-74 at the 1:19 mark.

With Seattle ahead 78-76, Loyd had a chance to seal the game, but she converted just 1 of 2 free throws with 10.8 seconds left.


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