About 20 minutes before tip off it was announced that Seimone Augustus would miss Sunday’s game for personal reasons. It was the first time this season the Lynx would be forced to alter their starting lineup. For most teams, losing an All Star would be cause for concern and possibly the recipe for a loss. For Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx, the league’s deepest, most veteran team, it was an opportunity for the team to come together.
“You feel the lack of her presence. I saw the team step up collectively. Every single person in all of our pregame rituals and warmups you could see people stepping up and filling in for Seimone. It was cool to see that response. We got that win for her.” Moore said after the victory.
Rebekkah Brunson had a wonderful game overall but it was her energy and effort on both ends of the court that kickstarted the team in the first half. Not only was she tasked with guarding Storm All Star forward Breanna Stewart, but she also boosted the team by soaring for a number of incredibly athletic rebounds and knocking in shots from the outside. Brunson’s new “stretch-four” ability is vital in creating space for Sylvia Fowles to operate inside the paint. Cheryl Reeve marveled at Brunson’s performance in her post-game press conference.
“(It is) critical for us to get the spacing we’re after for Syl. At times Syl had three, sometimes four (defenders) down there. It’s been so critical for Syl’s success, our ability to surround her with players who can knock down shots, especially from that position the four spot, when you have a player that can shoot it.” Reeve said.
Seattle played well on offense both inside and out. The Storm lead the league in percentage of points scored from three point land, and they lived up to that ranking on Sunday night making 10 of 25 shots from beyond the arc. Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd lead the way for the Storm with 24 and 26 points respectively. The future of their franchise lands squarely on the shoulders of Stewart and Loyd, the last two winners of the WNBA rookie of the year award. However both in this game and over the course of this season Seattle has not been able to get meaningful, consistent contributions to make them a winning team.
The second half was all about Fowles. She came alive for 14 points in the third quarter alone and scored 18 of her 29 total points in the latter half of the game. At this point Fowles has seen every type of defense and trapping strategy imaginable. The coaching staff delights in opposing defenses throwing many different looking schemes at her. Reeve has said on multiple occasions that the regular season is all about positioning themselves to be playing their best basketball in the playoffs. Facing 11 different teams with 11 different ideas about how to slow down Fowles is a great away to be prepared for anything. Seattle Storm head coach Jenny Boucek thought her team did all they could to stop the Lynx center.
“She’s playing out of her mind right now and we tried a lot of different things and a lot of times we did just exactly what we wanted to do and she still made incredible plays. Physically she overpowered us. Boucek said post-game.
Fowles’ dominance is in part due to her teammates willingness to get her the ball and the deftness of their of on-point passes. She’s able to catch the ball with deep paint position, use a few fakes or step through moves to score easily, often in a crowd of defenders. After the game I asked her how she decides to take on multiple defenders.
“I’m pretty good at going through double teams. That’s the story of my life. I can split double teams. That’s what I did in the third quarter. I slowed down, thought about myself and if you can go through two, three people, why not?” Fowles said.
Sunday’s win moves the team to 19-2 and officially clinches a playoff spot. With over a month remaining before the postseason begins, the team will use the last third of the season to tweak some things and improve even more.
With a roster featuring the consensus league MVP and quality depth at almost every position, the Lynx can afford to be without one of their best players for a game or two.
-This was the 15th straight home game the Lynx have won over the Storm.
-Attendance for this game was 12,432. That’s a season high (camp day excluded) for the Lynx at Xcel Energy Center.
-The Lynx outscored the Storm 46 to 28 in the paint. Minnesota has now held their opponent to under 30 points in the paint for six straight games.
-Asked after the game about The Lynx involvement in Monday’s WNBA trade deadline, Reeve joked “So I guess the cat’s out of the bag, you guys heard we’re trading Seimone.” Good one coach. ;)
The Atlanta Dream come to town on Thursday for a 7pm game. You can and should watch it on ESPN2.