The Seattle Storm won’t be going undefeated in 2019.
The defending WNBA champions fell 72-61 to the Minnesota Lynx on Wednesday night. Seattle couldn’t dig out of the hole it created for itself following a nine-point opening quarter.
Natasha Howard was the game’s leading scorer (18) but finished with just five rebounds—one game after grabbing a career-high 16 boards in the team’ season opener.
The Storm held Sylvia Fowles in check for the most part offensively, limiting the 2017 MVP to seven points. Fowles hammered Seattle on the glass, though, finishing with 13 rebounds.
The Game in a GIF
Loyd did everything right here. She drew Lexie Brown away from Sami Whitcomb, who got into the correct position and had a great look from the perimeter. The shot was halfway down before bouncing out, summing up a night in which Seattle couldn’t buy a bucket for long stretches.
- Mercedes Russell played 19:55, scoring four points and collecting four rebounds. The Storm were plus-seven with her on the floor.
Russell has something to prove this season. Breanna Stewart’s season-ending injury opened the door for the second-year center to play a larger role in the frontcourt. With Courtney Paris in the final year of her contract, Russell can assert herself as the team’s long-term backup center.
Mobility is one concern around Russell. Can the 6’6″ center effectively switch on defense and keep up with quicker guards?
Taking that question into consideration, it was heartening to see Russell bottle up Sims on a pair of occasions after being forced to switch onto the veteran guard.
Russell also played relatively well when isolated against Fowles.
She was a bright spot for the Storm in a game when little else went right.
- Jordin Canada only had one turnover to four assists. Progress!
- Whitcomb and Shavonte Zellous also had three assists apiece, though Zellous balanced hers with three turnovers.
- The Storm’s defensive effort sits somewhere in the middle ground between good and bad. They allowed the Lynx to shoot 44.3 percent from the field, which is decided *not good*. That number was also the result of some mitigating factors.
Seattle was without Alysha Clark for the second straight game, putting the team down its best perimeter defender. Beyond Clark’s on-ball defending, her defending away from the ball would’ve been helpful when the Storm collapsed inside on Fowles and left the perimeter exposed.
Minnesota had a 40-22 edge in rebounding, including 11 offensive rebounds to provide the Lynx with a healthy number of second-chance opportunities. According to WNBA.com, Minnesota only had seven fast-break points, but that figure doesn’t account for how the team’s rebounding advantage allowed its offense to get set before the Storm were in position. That likely partially explains why 50 percent of the Lynx’s points came in the paint despite a relatively nondescript game from Fowles.
- The Storm shot 2-of-15 from beyond the arc. Nights like these are going to happen when Stewart and Sue Bird are out injured.
In addition to to the 1.9 made three-pointers she averaged in 2018, Bird’s vision and passing ability helped set up others for open looks.
As good as Canada is, you couldn’t help but wonder whether Bird might’ve found Loyd a split-second earlier here. By the time Canada got the ball to Loyd, Sims closed out enough to force Loyd into a dribble.
- It would appear Crystal Langhorne is serious about extending her shooting range.
While Langhorne should be more willing to take three-pointers, she needs to be a little more selective than this.
- There’s no way around it. Loyd has to be better because this game is exactly what everyone feared when Stewart was lost for the season. She was inefficient on a high volume of shots and didn’t get to the charity stripe much.
Taken each on their own, a lot of Loyd’s shots were entirely defensible. Add them all together, though, and a clear pattern emerged.
Her ability to score from all three levels is part of what makes Loyd so dangerous. You try to cut off her drives to the basket and you risk watching her hurt you from the perimeter or mid-range.
When Loyd’s mid-range jumper isn’t falling, however, she has to adapt. Rather than attack the basket more frequently, she settled for a strategy that wasn’t working. Although Fowles is an excellent shot-blocker, that’s not an excuse for Loyd getting four shot attempts in the paint and shooting only three free throws.
Loyd is quick enough off the dribble that in the event she doesn’t score inside she can at least draw a foul. With the Storm in their present situation, that’s something she’ll need to do more frequently.
For now, we can chalk this up as a bad day at the office. The first quarter doomed the Storm and they didn’t play that badly from that point forward. Seattle has a back-to-back against the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky starting Friday, so the team can make a quick rebound.