SEATTLE – Swin Cash had 14 points and eight rebounds, Sue Bird added 12 points, and the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm beat the Indiana Fever, 68-54 on Friday night.
LeCoe Willingham had 10 points for Seattle (2-1).
Katie Douglas led Indiana (3-2) with 11 points after entering the game with a WNBA-best 21.3 average. Douglas took seven shots, hitting four. Tameka Catchings added eight points on 4-of-11 shooting. Point guard Briann January (Lewis and Clark) scored two points and had three assists.
“Tonight was a game that was the epitome or our team: We want everything to be based around our defense and start with our defense,” Bird said. “Tonight, it did. We were able to get a lot of stops, and that allowed us to get out in the open court and push the ball and get things going offensively.”
Seattle, coming off a loss to Minnesota on June 9 when it fell behind 22-0, scored the first four points Friday and never trailed.
“It was nice to come out and see some carryover from practice into the game,” said Storm coach Brian Agler, two wins away from his 200th as a professional-level coach (120 in the WNBA, 78 with Columbus in the defunct American Basketball League). “We looked like a mature basketball team out there tonight. We looked like we knew what we were doing, like we’d been there before. I thought that’s the best we played together this year at both ends.”
Seattle finished the first half on a 15-4 run, expanding a 19-15 lead to 37-19 by the break. Bird capped it with a buzzer-beating 3-point bank shot from the right of the lane. Indiana took just seven shots in the second quarter, hitting one, and was 4 of 21 (19 percent) in the half.
“They got to prepare a lot more than we did,” Douglas said, referring to the Storm’s eight-day break from their last game. “But we didn’t handle what they were doing very well. Offensively, we just looked out of sync and didn’t handle how they were coming at us and didn’t make the adjustments. That’s on us.”
The Storm pushed the lead to 21 in the opening two minutes of the second half. Indiana quickly cut it to 15, but Seattle pushed it back to as many as 27, and took a 25-point lead of 58-33 into the final quarter.
The Fever threw a zone defense at the Storm in the fourth, but the closest they came was the eventual final margin of 14.
“We missed some shots we should have hit, and didn’t do a good job on the boards – that was a real key thing for us,” Indiana coach Lin Dunn said. “By the fourth quarter, we kind of settled down, so I saw some good things.”
Indiana was 16 of 55 (29.1 percent) overall. The Storm also struggled from the field, going 22 of 66 (33.3 percent).
The Storm have won 19 of their last 20 at home, the exception being that 81-74 loss to Minnesota last Thursday.
“That was the biggest thing tonight was making sure our effort was there and sending a message,” Cash said.