While facing the best team in the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx need their best players to be on the floor and producing on both ends. With Sylvia Fowles out with the calf strain that has plagued her season, the onus falls squarely on Napheesa Collier. She’s led the league in minutes per game each of her first two seasons and can typically be trusted to say out of foul trouble. Collier was the victim of an extremely dubious whistle early in the second quarter that sent her to the bench with her third foul of the half. Suddenly Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve found herself at a crossroads. Remove Collier, preserve her for the second half and hope your team can stay close without her on the floor. Or leave Collier in the game knowing that she gives you the best chance to win the game but risk her picking up the fourth foul.
“Her third foul is what scared me- the way it happened,” Reeve said postgame. “I didn’t want to send her back out there and she gets in the wrong place and you get the fourth.”
Reeve chose the former, played it conservatively and unfortunately for the Lynx the decision did not pan out well. Over the quarter’s final seven minutes while Collier sat on the bench Seattle went on a 15-8 run and took a 13 point lead into halftime. Minnesota actually outscored Seattle by five points in the second half. Despite going down by 21 points in the third quarter the Lynx battled back behind solid rebounding a a flurry of threes. They finished off the third period on a 21-6 run and only trailed by five points.
Aside from making 13 threes and getting to the free throw line, the Lynx offense ran dry for long stretches. Minnesota’s backcourt struggled to be efficient again. Meanwhile their defense was not as sharp or responsive as they were in Tuesday’s game one. Seattle did a great job working the ball around the floor, patiently probing the scrambled Lynx defense. After the game Reeve explained her team’s defensive shortcomings.
“Not the first pass, not the second pass, but the third, fourth and fifth passes for them. You’ve got to play all the way through. You’ve got to rotate and help. We just didn’t have rotations or the timeliness that we had in game one. We’ve got to get back to that….These guys make you pay. One wrong step and they make you pay. The’ve got the best combination of offense and defense in the league.”
Jewell Loyd was the offensive engine yet again for the Storm. Her shifty quickness allows her to create her own shot like few players in the league can. Loyd feasted in pick and roll when a bigger defender would switch onto her. She’s just an ultra talented shot maker that seems to have the antidote to the Lynx defense. Loyd scored 20 points on ten shots. She also had four assists and five rebounds. Former Lynx Natasha Howard also had a nice night after being quiet in game one. She stretched Minnesota out and played a well-balanced offensive game. Yet another reminder of the embarrassment of riches featured on the Seattle roster.
The Lynx now find themselves with their backs against the wall trailing the Storm 0-2 in the best of five series. No team in WNBA history has come back from that deficit to win the series. Minnesota has played well overall against Seattle and knows they can hang around in any game. This team has come from behind and beaten the odds on a number of occasions this season. Even in this seemingly insurmountable hole, you’d be foolish to count them out.
Damirs Dantas was dialed in from three yet again (5-7 3FG) and scored a playoff career high 23 points. She continues to be a rock for Minnesota.
Crystal Dangerfield played better than she did on Tuesday. Seattle’s high pressure defense didn’t seem to effect her as much and her overall comfort level was back to normal. Unfortunately for Minnesota she still is struggling to score despite having ten points in this game. Her team needs more from the rookie of the year.
Breanna Stewart had a tough night shooting the ball (4-13 FG) but scored 17 and stuffed the stat sheet anyway. She had eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two blocks.
The Lynx find themselves in yet another “win or go home” situation on Sunday as they try to avoid being swept by Seattle. Tip off is at 2pm.