The Storm locked up a spot in the WNBA semifinals following a 107-95 shootout victory over Dallas on Wednesday in Bradenton, Fla.
The sixth straight win guaranteed Seattle (17-3) a top-two finish in the regular-season standings and a double bye in next week’s playoffs.
However, the victory may have been costly.
Midway in the fourth period, Sue Bird, who has missed nine games this season due to a bone bruise in her left knee, collided knees with Dallas rookie forward Satou Sabally while attempting a steal.
Bird collapsed on the IMG Academy court and stayed on the floor for several minutes before getting up gesturing toward her knee. The 39-year-old point guard walked gingerly off the court and didn’t return.
“She banged that same knee and I’m not sure how bad it is,” coach Gary Kloppenburg said during a Zoom call. “She was walking around OK at the end so hopefully it’s nothing too serious.”
Seattle has two regular-season games left, but Kloppenburg could give Bird 10 days of rest before the Storm’s begins the postseason on Sept. 20.
“We’re just not sure what it is with her,” Kloppenburg said. “She’ll get evaluated and we’ll figure out going forward what we need to do with her.”
Losing Bird muted the postgame celebrations for the Storm, which tallied a season high offensively and dug in late defensively to put away a young and feisty Dallas team that’s fighting to secure the No. 8 playoff seed.
Seattle entered Wednesday’s game with the WNBA’s No. 1 scoring defense that was allowing just 75.3 points per game, but had difficultly slowing down Dallas in the first half.
The Wings shot 55 percent from the field (11 of 20) and led 29-28 in the first period thanks in large part to Sabally, who scored nine in the quarter.
Then Arike Ogunbowale, the league’s scoring leader who was averaging 22.3 points, took over. The second-year Dallas guard tallied 13 points in the second period.
However, Seattle led 55-54 at halftime.
“Not a lot of defense going on,” Breanna Stewart said during a postgame interview. “We wanted to make sure we limited their shots and our rotations were a little funky and we cleaned it up a little bit.”
The Storm never stopped Sabally, who scored a game-high 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting.
However, forward Alysha Clark smothered Ogunbowale and held her scoreless on 0-for-6 shooting in the second half.
“I thought Clark did an outstanding job on Arike,” Kloppenburg said. “She dug in, locked in and wouldn’t let her catch the ball. We wanted to put her in congestion and into traffic and I thought we did a much better job of that.”
Without Ogunbowale’s scoring, Dallas couldn’t keep pace with Seattle. The Storm trailed 69-66 midway in the third and used a 19-5 run to essentially put the game away.
Stewart, who banked in a three-pointer from midcourt in the second quarter, slipped past the defense for a layup that put the Storm ahead 85-74 with 8:22 left.
Dallas cut its deficit to six points (91-85) with 5:31 remaining, but couldn’t get any closer.
Stewart finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists while Jewell Loyd added 23 points and seven rebounds. Natasha Howard had 16 points and eight rebounds and Clark tallied 14 points.
Bird also had 10 points and nine assists in what may have been her final regular-season game.
“We all know Sue,” Stewart said. “She’s going to figure something out.”
The Storm plays Phoenix on Friday before wrapping up against second-place Las Vegas on Sunday in a game that could determine the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds.