The Storm never shot worse this season than it did in the second half Wednesday night against the Washington Mystics.

Breanna Stewart slogged through a miserable shooting performance and Seattle's once-potent perimeter attack hardly posed a threat for the fifth straight game.

Not even Sue Bird, who returned from a five-game layoff, could get the offense on track for the Storm, which tallied a season low in points.

Despite its many offensive troubles, Seattle led for nearly the entire game while building a 16-point lead in the third quarter and holding on for its third straight win — a 71-64 victory in Bradenton, Fla.

"Sometimes you win ugly," coach Gary Kloppenburg said, smiling on a postgame Zoom call. "There's different ways to win. And this was one of those where we had to dig in and get some stops, especially in the second half."

The Storm, which led for 39 minutes, appeared headed toward a comfortable win after taking control 26-17 in the first quarter.

Seattle was ahead 38-30 at halftime and led 52-36 with 2:23 left in the third.

And suddenly, the shots stopped falling for the Storm, which converted 10 of 33 shots (30.3%), including 1 of 10 on three-pointers in the second half.

During Seattle's offensive drought, Washington went on a 26-15 run and twice cut its deficit to five points in the final two minutes.

"We got just enough stops to seal the game," Bird said. "You're not going to win how you want to all the time. But if you can find a way to win, it's a great sign."

The Storm, which maintained sole possession of first place in the WNBA standings at 14-3, will take solace knowing it can prevail with a dominant defensive performance on a night when the offense falters.

Seattle shot 38.7% from the field and 23.8% on three-pointers (5 of 21) while holding Washington to 37.7% shooting. The Mystics converted 7 of 27 three-pointers.

"It's really hard to win in this league when you're shooting in the 30s," Kloppenburg said. "We got away with it tonight because we held them to 37%. Generally you need to shoot the ball a little bit better."

The Storm also claimed a decisive victory in the rebounding battle (43 to 25) and enjoyed a lopsided free-throw disparity. Seattle converted 18 of 22 at the line while Washington was 5 of 5.

Stewart, who shot 4 of 17 from the field, did most of her damage at the charity stripe, where she was 8 for 10. She finished with her fourth double-double outing (16 points and 14 rebounds).

Natasha Howard finished with 13 points and nine rebounds and Jewell Loyd added 13 points.

Ariel Atkins and Myisha Hines-Allen, who combined for 39 points for Washington in an 89-71 victory over the Storm on July 30, tallied 9 and two points, respectively.

Emma Meeseman scored 17 points for the Mystics (4-12).

The Storm plays Los Angeles (13-4) on Friday before facing Minnesota (12-5) on Sunday in a difficult two-game stretch against two of the top four teams in the league.

"We're happy to get out of here with a win when we really (were) not playing as well as we can," Kloppenburg said. "I would expect us to get into a lot better flow in these next couple of games coming up and I think we need to.

"Those are both really good teams. We have winning teams coming up. We'll regroup and make some adjustments and just try to get some offensive flow."

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