TAMPA — The Storm had a bye last week to prepare for the stretch run. And tonight it has a chance to book its ticket to the postseason.
A Tampa Bay win against Spokane means a berth for the first time since 2009. (If the Storm loses, it can clinch with losses by Pittsburgh and New Orleans.)
"We all know what's at stake, but it's not something we really talk about," receiver Joe Hills said. "It's kind of like the giant elephant in the room."
With four games left, the Storm (7-7) holds one of the two wild cards (with 5-9 Orlando) in the American Conference. Pittsburgh (3-11) and New Orleans (4-10) barely remain in contention.
A Storm playoff berth would be the first since Dave Ewart took over for longtime coach Tim Marcum in 2010.
"I don't worry too much about all that," Ewart said of the playoffs. "We preach the next one is the big one. And right now, that's Spokane."
Tampa Bay is 2-5 at home compared with 5-2 on the road.
"I wish I knew the answer as to why," Ewart said. "If I could, I would bottle it and sell it."
The Storm has shown potential this year, including winning 70-62 at Spokane on April 27. But it has lost a season-high three in a row entering tonight's rematch.
"One thing that I've learned in coaching is consistency is every bit as important as being good," Ewart said. "We've got a lot of young kids on this team, and we're trying to find (consistency)."
Tampa Bay might be without its biggest weapon. Quarterback Adrian McPherson missed the last game, a 50-49 home loss to Chicago on June 22, with a hyperextended knee sustained a week earlier. If he can't go, Randy Hippeard will. Hippeard was 25-of-38 for 315 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions against the Rush.
"(Hippeard) has shown he can get us up and down the field," Ewart said. "He's a little different because he has that gunslinger mentality and isn't afraid to throw it into tight spots."