The Seattle Storm improved to 2-0 with a comprehensive 90-66 win over the Minnesota Lynx.
Seattle took control in the third quarter, outscoring Minnesota 28-17.
Breanna Stewart posted her first double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds) of the young season. Sue Bird (16 points) was the only other player to score in double figures. Everybody who saw the court for Seattle made at least one field goal to underscore what was a balanced offensive showing.
The Lynx didn’t have that luxury, partially due to injuries. Karima Christmas-Kelly (ankle) and Lexie Brown (head) both left the game before it concluded.
Napheesa Collier, Damiris Dantas and Sylvia Fowles combined for 44 points, but Minnesota’s support beyond that was lacking.
- We’re only two games into the year, so we haven’t seen Stewart single-handedly take a game over in the same way she did en route to winning an MVP in 2018. There were also moments early in the game when Stewie was matched up against Collier and got burned badly.
Stewart’s points and rebounds speak for themselves, though, and she showed plenty of athleticism to clean up this miss from Mercedes Russell (whether or not it was basket interference is irrelevant).
- Despite how much their injuries piled up, the Storm were fourth in defensive rating (96.4) in 2019. Gary Kloppenburg’s dad was a defensive mastermind, and it’s something he has carried on in his own coaching career. Defense was obviously going to be a strength in 2020.
Without Dan Hughes on the sideline, replicating what was one of the WNBA’s best offenses in 2018 wasn’t as much of a given, though, even with Stewart and Bird back.
Based on Tuesday’s outing, there isn’t much to worry about. The Storm shot 53 percent from the field and connected on 11 of their 25 three-pointers. It was a positive change from a season-opening victory over the New York Liberty in which they looked to be shaking off the rust.
On so many possessions, the Storm moved the ball around the perimeter to keep the Lynx defense constantly moving, and then made the extra pass to find an open shooter.
- Can we talk about the defense, too?
Minnesota shot 33.9 percent overall and 5-of-18 from the perimeter. The Lynx also committed 19 turnovers, something uncharacteristic of a Cheryl Reeve squad.
Collier and Crystal Dangerfield had 11 and 10 points, respectively, in their team’s 77-69 season-opening win over the Connecticut Sun. They combined to go 4-of-15 from the floor on Tuesday. Jordin Canada did a great job of nullifying Dangerfield, while Collier found life difficult against Alysha Clark.
- Let’s just take a moment to appreciate Bird.
She turns 40 in October, and she’s out here going 4-of-6 from beyond the arc and dishing out four assists to zero turnovers.
“Some days are better than others, and today was a good day,” Bird told reporters after the game.
- Canada and Jewell Loyd had one turnover apiece.
From the moment she entered the league, Canada was devastating in transition and a plus defender on the perimeter. Now, the game seems to be slowing down for her in half-court offensive sets.
Playmaking hasn’t been Loyd’s forte to this point in her career. She’s averaging 3.7 assists and 2.6 turnovers per 36 minutes, according to Basketball Reference. However, her shot attempts declined in each of the last two years, and the trend is continuing to begin 2020. Loyd looks to be focusing more on creating for her teammates, and it’s opening up the entire offense.
- Morgan Tuck made her Storm debut and finished with three points, two assists and one steal in 11:26.
- Time is running out to hop on the Ezi hype train.
Ezi Magbegor is giving Seattle exactly what it needs off the bench, which is somebody to provide energy, guard multiple positions, and run the floor in transition.
A comment she made before Tuesday’s game about *that* defensive stop on Sabrina Ionescu outlined how she might be wise beyond her 20 years as well.
“A couple plays before, I got switched onto Sabrina and I remember giving up too much separation to her on that play,” Magbegor said, per Storm Chasers. “So when I switched onto her (again) I knew to keep the spacing and not get too far off of her.”
At the rate she’s adapting, we’re only weeks (perhaps days) out from Ezi completely optimizing her game.
- The harsh truth is that the 2020 season will likely be a war of attrition, with the champion based on how many healthy players it has.
The salary cap spike meant some teams were unlikely to fill out all of their 12 roster spots after signing free agents and re-signing their own players. Then came the opt-outs amid the ongoing pandemic. And in the event a player is injured, coaches can’t simply look to free agency to replace her in the rotation.
From top to bottom, the Storm have the deepest roster as long as everyone stays healthy. Russell and Canada were positive contributors in starting roles last season, and now they’re coming off the bench again. Magbegor has been a pleasant surprise so far, and Tuck’s comfort in the offense should grow as the year goes on.
- Natasha Howard scored five points in the first two minutes of the game. She wound up with only seven points and played 15:35.
The Lynx out-rebounded the Storm 38-24 and owned a 15-7 in offensive rebounds. That’s partially attributable to Howard’s muted impact.
- I don’t want to be too harsh on the announce team because it’s probably not something I’d do well if given the chance. And the announcers established early into the broadcast they were calling the game from Tennessee and Texas, respectively.
Having said that, asking announcers to properly identify players and pronounce their names correctly doesn’t seem like too much. The play-by-play guy said “Loyd got it” when Canada hit her first shot of the game and pronounced Magbegor’s firs name as “easy.” That was at least better than whatever this attempt to say “Ezi Magbegor” was.
- Sami Whitcomb only played 4:36. Kloppenburg is turning me into Alan’s dad from Remember the Titans.
The Storm justified the high opinion many hold of them as favorites for the WNBA title. Seattle plays the Washington Mystics on Thursday, which will be an opportunity to further solidify itself as the best team in the league.