After splitting games against the title-contending Las Vegas Aces to start the season, the 2020 WNBA champion Seattle Storm looked threatening once gain. Although they were already trotting out their 3rd different starting line-up of the season (Newly acquired Katie Lou Samuelson out 5-6 games due to participation in the FIBA 3x3 qualifiers), their opponent was none other than the struggling Minnesota Lynx, who were 0-2 to start the season.
It was a tale of 2 halves.
Well, more like a tale of 3 quarters to 1 quarter. The 4th quarter, specifically, where the Storm outscored the Lynx by an ungodly 37-15.
With 6’1” Bridget Carleton getting the starting nod over 5’5” Crystal Dangerfield for the second game in a row, it was evident that the focus of Coach Reeve would be on defense. It helped that Seattle looked sloppy and uninterested right from the get-go, turning the ball over 8 times in just the first 11 minutes. Throughout the majority of the game, the defensive intensity looked to pay off for the Lynx. Minnesota limited Breanna Stewart all game (13 points on 14 FGA) and forced the Storm to score from the perimeter. Unfortunately for the Lynx, Seattle is a championship caliber team and was able to get the ball into the hands of Sue Bird (21 points on 12 FGA) and Jewell Loyd (23 points on 14 FGA) who more than obliged in knocking down open 3s all game. 16-year vet Candice Dupree contributed her vintage mid-ranger jumpers while backup point guard Jordin Canada got loose in the paint to the tune of 16 points on just 4 FGA (!). Those 4 players combined to score 70 of the Storm’s 90 points.
Meanwhile on the Lynx end, Sylvia Fowles was dominant early and often. In the 1st quarter alone, she scored 11 points and went 5 of 5 from the field, despite missing 2 free throws. No Storm defender could stop her deep in the paint, nor from mid-range on a couple smooth jumpers. Minnesota’s former MVP was getting loose all game and finished with 20 points and 9 boards, but collapsed late in the game with 2 missed FTs (2/7 on the night, 43.8% on the season) and a few bunnies that the Lynx desperately needed. However in order to have a collapse, you need to first build a lead. Minnesota was able to do so on the back of Crystal Dangerfield, who was a force tonight. She sliced up the paint and had a crucial segment late in the 3rd, when the Lynx were ahead 10+ points and she hit a contested 3-pointer, then immediately drew a charge on Stewie in mid-transition. The largest lead of the game was when the Lynx were up 19 in the 3rd quarter off a Kayla McBride made 3-pointer.
Syl turned it up to ELEVEN in the first quarter! pic.twitter.com/DjdbutcFMt— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) May 21, 2021
Alas... the collapse.
At this point, the Lynx are in uncharted territory. This is the first time since 2007 that the Lynx have started a season 0-3. On one hand, all 3 of these games were extremely winnable. A game-winner by one of the greatest of all-time. A 2nd half collapse to a streaking young team. An epic 4th quarter collapse to the defending champs. All of this without the team’s best player (Napheesa Collier) and a very new roster to boot. But at the end of the day, all that matters are the numbers in the win and loss columns and the former column still shows a big fat 0. I’m not ready to abandon hope on the season, as I strongly (and reasonably) believe that things will get turned around.
The loss tonight to the Storm gives the Lynx their third loss in as many games.— Across the Timeline (@WBBTimeline) May 21, 2021
This is Minnesota's first 0-3 start since 2007, when they opened the season 0-7 and finished the regular season 10-24.
2006 is the only other season they started 0-3 (also finished 10-24).
Regardless, the Lynx will have to weather this storm.
Full game highlights
- The Minnesota Lynx shooting woes from perimeter continue to be troubling. In a season which I thought they would be great from long distance, they have gone an ice cold 23.2% (13/56) including 5/17 tonight. It’s just a matter of time before that number goes up, but currently it has been a big reason why the Lynx are winless. On the flipside, opponents are shooting 38.9% (28/72) so if you do the math, Minnesota is being outscored 84-39 from 3. Yeouch.
Coach Reeve: "We didn't have the will to get to 3-point shooters."— Ricky Rude-Leo (@Y0Leo) May 21, 2021
- Crystal Dangerfield was the star of the game for the Lynx. She was routinely getting into the teeth of the defense and finishing with a number of Danger Floaters™. They’re really a thing of beauty. She was making an impact from perimeter (2/3) and finding her teammates on a number of beautiful dimes. Keep in mind, CD’s 22 point, 3 rebound, and 6 assist night was coming off a scoreless appearance versus New York, where she went 0-7 from the bench. There’s going to have to be a conversation if “bench microwave” is going to be her best role moving forward or not.
Crystal Dangerfield on starting vs coming off the bench: "I don't have a preference... I just want to win."— Ricky Rude-Leo (@Y0Leo) May 21, 2021
- As mentioned in the story above, Sylvia Fowles was dominant for much of the game. It was great seeing her play as a comfortable as she has ever since her calf injury in 2020. The Storm largely let her get whatever she wanted. Hopefully her health holds up and we get this version of Syl for the rest of the season.
the best big in the W picking up right where she left off pic.twitter.com/P8EBienkAB— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) May 21, 2021
Sylvia Fowles on late collapse: "Seattle did a really good job crowding the paint... We just couldn't finish at the rim."— Ricky Rude-Leo (@Y0Leo) May 21, 2021
"We just gotta go back and watch what we didn't do in the 4th qtr."
- I love what Rachel Banham can theoretically bring to this team, but she looked really bad in these first 3 games. Not only has she not been shooting 25% from the field, but those 13 shot attempts have been mostly awful looks. Banham has been forcing shots up due to the fact that she hasn’t created much for others (2 assist, 3 turnovers on the season). I felt there was 1.5 minute 4th quarter shift where Banham subbed into the game up 12 and was quickly hooked as the lead was cut in half that really did the Lynx in. I hope and believe she can turn things around, but there’s no denying she’s had a horrendous start.
- Much to my surprise, Natalie Achonwa returned to action tonight. She only played 3 minutes in the first half, but that was about it. Achonwa still looks a step or 2 slow out there and she really needs to get back to full health.
- Aerial Powers is still rusty. She had 10 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and a ghastly 7 turnovers on 25% shooting, but her aggressiveness attacking the paint off the dribble is astonishing. She got to the line for 8 FTA in 1st half alone and her hustle on both ends of the court will be the ultimate X-factor. I’m banking on her finishing as one of the 3 most impactful players on the roster by season’s end due to her versatility and energy.
Coach Reeve on backcourt: "It's kinda what we hoped for. Aerial still has places to go and she'll get better - it's driving her nuts with the 7 turnovers... I thought we did really good things on offense."— Ricky Rude-Leo (@Y0Leo) May 21, 2021
- After averaging 11.5 FGA in the first 2 games, Kayla McBride only got off 7 attempts tonight, canning 2 of Minnesota’s 5 made triples. Coach Reeve will need to get KMac more involved in the offensive game plan if she wants the 3-point shooting to improve.
- Shoutout to Bridget Carleton who did a helluva job on Stewie tonight. The aforementioned 6’1” Carleton was checking 6’4” Stewart effectively all night, muscling her into uncomfortable spots on the floor. Aside from Achonwa’s fluky +3, Bridget had the only positive +/- of the game and the eye-test matched that data point.
- Damiris Dantas looked great tonight. She scored 5 early points from perimeter which forced Breanna Stewart to have to stay outside the paint. DD was also making excellent entry passes from the high post all evening. Kudos for her (and Carleton’s) job excellent defense on Stewie tonight.
- In the same vein, I felt Jess Shepard also had a great game. Her had 4 points, 4 boards, and 5 dimes, putting her passing chops on full display. Her 2/7 shooting night was skewed by 2 end of the quarter heaves. I think Shepard is going to play a big role as the season moves on.
The Lynx are now 0-2 in Commissioner’s Cup games and will have an opportunity to get their first W in both that and their regular season. After a long 7-day break coming up, Minnesota will it back against Seattle next Friday, 5/28 at 9PM CT on the road.
Napheesa Collier will likely be active.