Storm on verge of playoff berth

SEATTLE — Thursday’s Storm win isn’t a surprise.

Visiting Connecticut has a combined 50 games missed from injured players on its roster. It has only played two games this season with a full 11-player roster. So, the Storm winning 78-65 to hand the Sun its sixth consecutive loss isn’t a feat.

The game was more like a final tune-up for Seattle’s real challenge this season.

Seattle (15-14) is one win from clinching a WNBA-record 10th consecutive playoff berth. But of course it’s difficult, like the season has been in meshing three new starters — and six total new faces onto the roster.

The first chance to get that key win is in Minnesota (21-7) on Saturday.

“They can smell it,” Storm coach Brian Agler said of his team being on the verge of a postseason berth. “We’re getting close to achieving our goal and they understand this (Connecticut game) was a huge opportunity for us. I was really proud because I know they’re tired.”

Saturday’s game in Minnesota will be Seattle’s fourth in a span of seven days.

The Storm plays two more times against Minnesota, then it faces Tulsa (9-19) twice to end the season. The Storm has already lost once to the Lynx and is also 0-3 against the Shock, making a five-game losing streak to end the season possible.

“It’s a tough stretch, but this is what you play for,” Storm point guard Temeka Johnson said.

Seattle, now percentage points behind Phoenix (14-13) for third in Western Conference standings, hasn’t played like a team on the edge of a downward spiral. The Storm is 8-4 in August. All-Star forward Tina Thompson has powered the team, scoring 18 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field in 28 minutes of play on Thursday. Thompson, a 17-year veteran, also had nine rebounds against Connecticut.

Seattle was up 40-23 at the break, holding Connecticut to 27.3 percent shooting in the first half.

Agler tried to limit his starters in the second half but the Sun (7-21) made pushes to cut the deficit to single digits. But forward Camille Little made some key baskets and finished with 18 points.

“They got a little bit of confidence,” Little said of Connecticut’s mini runs. “They got a couple of easy shots and we started fouling a little bit toward the end. But overall, our defense was always there and that saved us.”