By Matthew Roberson
The Seattle Storm (10-13) set out for a long road trip on Sunday, starting with a clash against the first-place Minnesota Lynx (18-2). Seattle could not get enough stops on the defensive end to secure a win, eventually falling 93-82.
Minnesota had three players – All-Stars Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, and Rebekkah Brunson – all score at least 20 points. Jewell Loyd was Seattle’s leading point getter with 26. Breanna Stewart earned 20 or more points for the 10th consecutive contest while also snaring seven boards. Sue Bird dished her way to six assists and also cracked double-digit scoring with 10 points. Crystal Langhorne posted her fourth 10-rebound game of 2017.
Bird gave Seattle a 7-5 lead early, hitting nothing but net on a long three pointer. Minnesota responded with a 15-5 run to give itself a 20-12 advantage as the clock wound under two minutes in the first quarter. Both teams played stiff defense throughout the opening minutes. One game after netting 34 points in the first quarter, Seattle was held to 19 in the first and trailed 23-19 at the end of one.
Loyd sent a three through the hoop early in the second quarter to give her eight points and get the Storm within three (25-22). Midway through the second quarter, the Lynx held a 34-29 lead, and Loyd had already reached 10 points. The Storm finished the first half strong, earning several easy baskets at the rim. Bird drilled her third three of the half, putting Seattle behind by just six points (44-38) with 24 seconds to go in the second quarter. This would stand as the halftime score.
The Storm scored 19 points in both the first and second quarters. The team trotted into halftime shooting 45.2 percent (14-for-31) from the field, having connected on four shots from downtown. Minnesota also hit four three pointers and shot a collective 51.4 percent (18-for-35) in the first half. Loyd was Seattle’s leading scorer with 10 points, and Bird and Stewart were right behind with nine of their own.
Seattle forced its opponent into six first-half turnovers. The Storm also finessed its way to the free throw line very effectively, going 6-for-9 at the charity stripe in the initial 20 minutes. Minnesota handily controlled the glass, grabbing 20 rebounds to the Storm’s 13. As per usual, the Storm moved the ball selflessly, accumulating 11 assists on its first 14 made field goals.
Stewart laid home the first points of the second half for Seattle off a beautiful pocket pass from Loyd. The Lynx stretched their lead to 10 points (54-44) on two Folwes free throws midway through the third quarter. Loyd canned three straight shots, including an end-of-the-shot-clock three, to make the count 58-51.
Minnesota’s lead hovered around 10 points for most of the third frame. The third quarter came to an end with the Lynx in the driver’s seat, leading by 12 (69-57). Head coach Cheryl Reeve’s team owned the paint, with Fowles at 25 points before the fourth quarter even got underway. The All-Star center out of LSU managed 14 points in the third quarter alone. Loyd had 19 through 30 minutes, and Stewart had 17 and six rebounds.
Sami Whitcomb found the bottom of the net with her trademark three-point shot to bring Seattle above 60 points. Loyd cashed in her third three of the contest to make the score 77-66. The Seattle two guard is converting 36.5 of her shots beyond the arc this season. She later swished a fadeaway to get Seattle back within single digits (79-70).
The Lynx took over down the stretch, never allowing Seattle to mount a comeback. The WNBA’s best record got even better as Minnesota posted a 93-82 win. Loyd was certainly a bright spot on this night in the Twin Cities. Fowles stood out in the box score with 29 points and 12 rebounds. She helped the Lynx to a 37-29 advantage on the boards. Jia Perkins led all players with seven helpers.
Seattle has four more games away from KeyArena before it flies home. The Storm continues its road swing on Friday at Dallas, with the tipoff set for 5 p.m. PDT.