The 2020 season is over for the Minnesota Lynx as they were swept by the mighty Seattle Storm who now move on to the WNBA Finals. Minnesota let Sunday’s elimination game get away from them early as the Storm doubled up the Lynx 24-12 in the first quarter. Minnesota threw six of their series-high 19 turnovers in the first period. This inspired a Seattle team known for being lethal in the open court to rip off a 17-0 run and never look back.
Turnovers were something that Minnesota had issues with all season long but until game three had not been a problem in this series. They had 18 combined giveaways in the first two games but topped that number in game three alone. Seattle altered their defensive scheme on Sunday and featured more switching in pick and roll action rather than trapping the ball handler. This allowed the Storm to stay matched up five-on-five and pick up deflections and steals that unlocked their transition game. Natasha Howard, Alysha Clark and others flexed their athleticism and energy advantages to short-circuit Minnesota’s offense. The Lynx scored a paltry 31 points in the first half, and turned in one of their worst offensive performances of the season.
Trailing by 15 points at halftime, the Lynx gave their fans a glimmer of hope by going on a 10-2 run to open the half which cut the lead to seven points. But this was as close as they would get as Seattle punched back and scored 12 straight to regain absolute control. Even in the half court Seattle’s offense was absolutely humming. The Storm are such a fantastic passing team, illustrated by their incredible 31 assists on 37 made baskets. Breanna Stewart had pedestrian (by her standards) performances in games one and two but absolutely dominated this game on both ends of the floor. She finished with 31 points, seven assists, four rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots in only 30 minutes. Minnesota failed to make life hard for her.
Another boon for the Storm was the play of their reserves. Cheryl Reeve only played seven players while Seattle head coach Gary Kloppenburg went deep into his rotation giving ten players at least nine minutes of playing time. Players like Mercedes Russell, Epiphanny Prince and Jordin Canada stepped up in the closeout playoff game and gave their team a huge boost off the bench. Seattle’s reserves crushed Minnesota’s outscoring them 32-7.
It was a long afternoon and a short series.
Even as the underdogs, it hurts to lose in such decisive fashion. This is not how the Lynx wanted to go out, but Minnesota can depart Bradenton with their heads held high. This season will not be remembered for the disappointment of losing in the semifinals, but rather for overachieving in seemingly every other aspect of the summer.
Their best player (Sylvia Fowles) missed over half of their games, which forced the team to field one of the youngest rosters in the league. They routinely and valiantly battled back from double digit deficits to be victorious in a number games they probably had no business winning. Their second round draft pick (Crystal Dangerfield) had the most improbable rookie of the year season in the history of the WNBA. All of this occurred in a summer defined by a worldwide pandemic and historic social justice movements.
Through it all Minnesota kept winning. They finished fourth in the league won a single elimination playoff game, and went toe to toe with the best team in the WNBA.
What a year.