The Seattle Storm maintained a two-game lead on the Atlanta Dream with an 81-72 win over the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday in Minneapolis.
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Natasha Howard relished the opportunity to once again embarrass her old team. She led the Storm with 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting. Breanna Stewart had 17 points and a season-high 17 rebounds, which also tied her career high.
The Lynx own the fourth-best defensive rating in the WNBA (99.0), but the Storm shot 47.1 percent from the field as a team and were 11-of-25 on three-pointers.
It was another big win for Seattle as it looks to lock down the No. 1 seed in the WNBA playoffs.
Game in a GIF
Not only did Breanna Stewart reach high up into the heavens to haul down this rebound with one hand, but she also had the presence of mind to quickly pass to Natasha Howard as she was falling out of bounds. Stewart was unstoppable on the glass and helped the Storm finish with a 39-29 edge in rebounding.
- Alysha Clark has been battling a hamstring strain over the past week or so, and she had the hamstring taped up Sunday night. Despite that, Clark helped limit Maya Moore to 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Clark has three total blocks this season, which doesn’t do justice to how much she alters opponents’ shots. On Sunday, she did a great job of simply staying in position and getting a hand in Moore’s face.Neither one of those counts as a blocked shot, but they may as well have, since the net effect is the same.
Correctly identifying Clark’s defensive value to the Storm and then putting that into practice has been one of Dan Hughes’ biggest accomplishments this season.
- In Seattle’s 85-75 win over Minnesota on Aug. 3, the Storm didn’t really look comfortable until they were able to speed up the tempo of the game. On Sunday, the Storm largely played the game to the Lynx’s preferred style and still won anyway. According to WNBA.com, the pace Sunday was 77.5, down from 81.0 in the last meeting. To put those numbers in perspective, 81.0 is equal to fifth-fastest in the league, whereas 77.5 would rank last.
Adaptability is another thing Hughes has helped bring to the Storm in 2018.
- At the risk of overlooking her entire performance, I wanted to highlight one specific sequence for Stewart.
Tanisha Wright hit a three-pointer with 6:52 left in the fourth quarter to cut the Storm’s lead to four points, 62-58. After a Seattle timeout, Stewart hit a three-pointer to make it a seven-point game. On the Storm’s next possession—which began with a Stewart defensive rebound—she hit another three to put the team up 10 points.
That’s exactly how you want your best player and the WNBA MVP favorite to respond in that situation.
- Jewell Loyd only shot 5-of-14 from the field, but she also had eight rebounds and six assists. Loyd also defended very well when matched up with Seimone Augustus and Cecilia Zandalasini. Augustus missed four of her five three-point attempts, while Zandalasini was held scoreless after going 0-of-8.
- Let’s check in on the bench scoring from Sunday nightJordin Canada, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Crystal Langhorne combined for 13 points. Nine of those points came in the fourth quarter.
This was a game where Seattle’s bench could’ve really shined. The Lynx were without Danielle Robinson and Rebekkah Brunson, exacerbating what were already problems regarding Minnesota’s depth.
- Mosqueda-Lewis’ shooting in particular continues to frustrate. She’s now 4-of-21 on beyond the arc in her last 11 games. KML is the kind of player who can be an unsung hero in the postseason; she pours in 10 to 15 points off the bench to almost swing a game single-handedly in Seattle’s favor. It would be nice if she can rediscover her shooting stroke in time for the playoffs.
- Sylvia Fowles had a game-high 28 points while collecting 13 rebounds.
Natasha Howard continued to front the reigning MVP in the post, with another player rotating over for help when Fowles received the ball. The strategy was successful at times.Still, Fowles shot 68.1 percent in three games against the Storm. Dispossessing her before she gets a shot up can only work so often. And once she’s actually in her shooting motion, the Storm’s defensive plan basically amounts to hoping and praying the ball bounces off the rim.
Although the Lynx are a worse team than they were a year ago, the idea of Seattle having to face off with Fowles in a five-game playoff series isn’t too reassuring.
The Storm got through what as on paper their toughest remaining game of the regular season. With home matchups with the New York Liberty and Dallas Wings, they should be able to secure the No. 1 seed.