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Storm 90, Lynx 79: Raining Threes

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Minnesota’s fourth quarter run falls short.

There are a lot of similarities between this year’s version of the Lynx and the Storm. Both teams have experienced success this season despite their starting lineups looking totally different than they did last summer. No Maya Moore? No Breanna Stewart? No Problem.

Seattle led the entire night and won this game in dominant fashion. Minnesota’s defense looked lost, especially when it came to defending the three point line. The combination of 12 made threes and a career-high 33 points from former Lynx Natasha Howard allowed the Storm to stay in control throughout the game.

A strange fourth quarter kept things interesting. The Lynx opened the frame down 17 points but immediately went on a 25-9 run over the first 6 and a half minutes, cutting the lead to a single point. It seemed as if Minnesota was going to win the game and shock Seattle. Instead the Lynx failed to score a single point the rest of the way. A 10-0 Storm run closed the game.

Triple Trouble

Before the game Cheryl Reeve stressed the importance of defending the Storm’s three point threat. Her team was not up to the task. Seattle shot 12/25 from deep and many of their looks were not contested. They easily drove past Minnesota defenders, drew in the help and found open shooters to knock down shots. Four Storm players hit multiple threes and Sami Whitcomb had a season-high 15 points on her five made triples.

It started early with Lynx defenders inexplicably going underneath screens, which left Storm shooters open from beyond the arc. Seattle hit their first three shots of the game, each of them from downtown. Whitcomb is a known three point threat and her high shot quality was enabled partially by bad Lynx defense, but also because of her off-ball activity.

“Sammy was worn out after the game but for good reason,” Storm head coach Dan Hughes said after the game. “Her activity without the ball was exceptional. We screened well, but you know, we just have to be persistent. We worked a lot on moves without the basketball because we felt like Minnesota would make it tough and they did. Whitcomb is a persistent personality now, I mean, what you see on the court is what’s in (her heart). And so she just kept working, kept working, kept working. That’s, that’s kind of what we got to do.”

Tasha Time

Natasha Howard was the best player on the floor and it wasn’t particularly close. Howard scored a career high 33 points in the gym she called home for two seasons. She mostly scored in the restricted area, but also added a few threes. Minnesota had a tough time with the Whitcomb/Howard pick and roll. Howards ability to set a great screen and then roll into space was top-notch. She also got a bunch of points by rim-running in transition.

Unfortunately Howard’s excellence came at the expense of Napheesa Collier. The rookie looked like, well, a rookie. To her credit, that’s something that hasn’t been said much about her this season. Even Collier’s long arms and typically-solid defensive instincts were no match for the athleticism and experience that Howard brought to the court.

“I knew that this would be a difficult matchup for ‘Phee. But this was not one of ‘Phee’s better nights,” Reeve said postgame. “Natasha Howards’ a fast player, a dynamic player, a 28% three baller hitting step back threes, you know, just kind of feeling herself and yeah, not a great matchup. Natasha is a tough matchup for most people. But obviously for ‘Phee that was that was challenging. We didn’t get anything done defensively.”

Notes

Lexie Brown added 20 points off the bench hitting 4-6 threes. Brown started the season hot, hitting multiple threes in six of the first seven games. Over the next ten games she has only hit multiple threes once. Good to see her getting long range buckets again.

After the game Reeve brought up her team’s lack of free throws and how it’s become an unwelcome trend. This falls on Odyssey Sims’ plate. She leads the team in free throw attempts per game with 3.4. That number needs to go up. In the last six games she’s only been to the line seven times. In the six games before that she shot 41 free throws. Minnesota needs their All Star guard to get into the lane and find contact.

Damiris Dantas was nearly activated to play in this game but was ultimately ruled out with a sore calf. It seems likely she will return Sunday in Las Vegas. Dantas’ defense was sorely missed tonight.

Both Jordin Canada and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis were injured in this game for Seattle. The Storm are already a very injured team. Hopefully these players can return soon.

Next Up

The Lynx will play their final road game before the All Star break Sunday in Las Vegas. The Aces are the best team in the league right now. It will be a good “measuring stick” game for Minnesota. Tip of is 5pm CT.

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