(Minneapolis, MN) – Both the Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx had impressive wins in their season debuts last week. Seattle took out the Phoenix Mercury 77-68, while the Minnesota Lynx easily dispatched of the Chicago Sky 89-71. Neither team was projected as a top seed this season, especially without star players Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, Rebekkah Brunson or Maya Moore. So Wednesday’s game was a good litmus test to see where these two teams were really at.
Unfortunately for Seattle, Minnesota completely outplayed the Storm in almost every facet of the game on their way to a dominant 72-61 victory. The Lynx outrebounded the Storm 40-22 and had a 22-13 edge in assists. The Lynx were led by Odyssey Sims with 15 points and four players total scoring in double figures. By contrast, the Storm only had two players score in double figures (Natasha Howard – 18, Jewell Loyd – 13). The Lynx bench also outscored Seattle’s 20-12, with rookie Jessica Shepard and second-year player Lexi Brown adding ten points each.
Second round draft pick Anriel Howard scored the first points of her WNBA career with a three-pointer late in the 4th quarter off the bench for Seattle.
Similar to the season opener, Seattle really struggled in the opening quarter. Seattle scored just nine points on 4-16 shooting (25%). The Storm also had five turnovers. Seattle also had problems with foul trouble. Jordin Canada, Natasha Howard, and Shavonte Zellous all picked up two fouls apiece in the opening frame.
First-round pick (6th overall), Napheesa Collier, coming off her torrid start in the Lynx opener where she scored 27 points, was back at it again on Wednesday when she tallied nine points in the first quarter. However, the Storm’s defense stepped up and held her scoreless throughout the rest of the game.
Acting Coach Gary Kloppenburg felt the biggest difference in the game was the slow start in the first quarter.
“I thought we dug ourselves such a hole during that first quarter, and they came out with a lot of energy at home and we were a little sluggish to start the game. We never really bounced back from that. We played really hard during the second half, but we could never make any ground on that. It’s hard when you shoot the ball in the 30’s when we’re a team that usually shoots in the mid-40’s, so it’s really difficult to win doing that. They play really hard and they play great defense as well.”
Seattle didn’t do any better in the 2nd quarter. They shot 6-17 (35%) and went 0-7 from 3-point range during the first half.
The Storm improved their offense in the 2nd half, scoring 20 points in the 3rd quarter; compared to 24 total in the first half. The bad news is that the Lynx outscored them by two as Seattle trailed 61-44 heading into the 4th quarter.
Seattle rallied late in the game outscoring Minnesota 17-11 in the final quarter, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 20 point deficit they had in the game.
After the game, Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve was pleased with the defensive effort of her squad.
“When we hold our opponent at 40% were 107-3 when we do that, and we just got out of the locker room and all their eyes were really big. And that’s what we do. We defend and rebound. Another double-digit (rebounding) margin for us. We’re 74-4 since 2011 when we do that. That’s how we got through this game tonight.”
What we learned
Well, it’s only been two games so far this season, so there are plenty of chapters to still be written in this book. But the 2019 Seattle Storm are really struggling to score right now. They are currently averaging just 69 points a game compared to last season’s average of 87.2 points per game. The 61 points scored in tonight’s game against Minnesota was lower than any point total last season throughout all 42 games (34 regular season + 8 playoff games).
Seattle shot 36% from the floor (24-66) and an abysmal 13% from three-point range. A stark contrast from the league-leading 38% they shot from beyond the arc a year ago.
Wednesday’s loss against Minnesota really highlighted the loss of Breanna Stewart. It’s not just Stewart’s ability to score over 20 points a game that makes her the best. It’s her consistency to do so every single night, game after game. Crystal Langhorne can give you 15 points in a game, Jewell Loyd can give you 30 points in a game. But when Loyd is the 2nd leading scorer on the team tonight with just 13 points, the Storm aren’t getting enough offensive production.
In Saturday’s victory over the Mercury, Seattle got strong scoring efforts from Natasha Howard, Jewell Loyd and Jordin Canada. On Wednesday, only Howard came out and had a strong game. And the WNBA is just too talented to be able to compete and win games if that’s going to happen.
After the game, Jewell Loyd wasn’t happy with the performance and doesn’t believe the poor shooting will continue on this road trip.
“I think as a whole, we came out a little soft and we never really got into an offensive rhythm. Defensively, we made some things a little hard for them, but we still were kind of soft on both ends of the floor. It’s the second game of the season, but the thing about this team is that we’re going to consistently fight and have effort throughout the whole game. We know it’s hard to win on the road, but we’ve got to start better. We only scored nine points in the first quarter, which is unheard of for us. We’re a really good shooting team, so the chances of us shooting like that again on a road trip is hopefully none.”
For Seattle’s sake, they better hope things improve offensively and quickly because the team won’t get many wins this season scoring under 70 points a game.
Seattle (1-1) will travel to Atlanta (1-0) to face the Atlanta Dream on Friday 5/31. Last season, the Dream were the best defensive team in the league and the only team to beat Seattle multiple times during the regular season.