The Minnesota Lynx hosted their fellow four-time WNBA champion mates, the Seattle Storm, on prime time television, getting their game bumped up from ESPN2 to ESPN. To fans who don’t play close attention to the league, they would imagine this would be a marquee game to tune in for. To those who have been watching, they would know that these two franchises were going in opposite directions.
The visiting Storm weathered an early season COVID-19 outbreak and rattled off three straight victories to push them to second in the league standings. Meanwhile, the Lynx are amidst a season full of inconsistency (18 different players have suited up) and injuries, losing three in a row to drop back down to bottom in the standings. The only similarity between the teams, other than the number of championship banners they have, is that both are giving retirement tours to their franchise figureheads. Ironically, both Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles would miss the game for different reasons.
I was expecting an ugly game.
To my surprise, Minnesota opened the game up with a sense of urgency that has largely been lacking for the majority of the season. One of the lone bright spots for the Lynx has been 28-year-old “rookie,” Nikolina (Nina) Milić. She drew first blood of the game by going straight at perennial MVP candidate, Breanna Stewart, right from the get go.
That type of fearlessness has been displayed by Milić all season (One of only five players who have played in all 14 games this year), and tonight, it looked like the rest of her teammates would line up right behind her. Though it’s damn near impossible to contain Stewie, who scored 15 of her game-high 29 points by half, the Lynx were able to match her shot for shot. Their fluid ball movement on offense led to equal opportunity scoring chances, while their wily defensive looks (Zone to battle ginormous Storm frontcourt) helped limit the Storm to 38% from the field. That combination led to a surprising 46-39 halftime lead for Minnesota.
On that note, Minnesota also reactivated Kayla McBride tonight, who was absent for one game due to a nagging foot issue. Her ability to put the ball in the hoop while also guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player was a welcome sight. She was able to lead the Lynx in scoring with 20 points, adding four rebounds, and three assists to boot.
The second half would take a different tone though. A noticeable focus on pressuring the ballhandlers continued to force Minnesota into turnovers and poor shot selection on the offensive end. Their shot selection puttered down the drain and their defense was beginning to get figured out. The key for Seattle?
Throw bodies at the glass.
In particular, Gabby Williams was a thorn in the Lynx side all game, garnering five of her 10 rebounds on the offensive end. The lack of size was finally catching up to Minnesota and to make matters worse, it appeared that Damiris Dantas, who was playing in just her third game of the season and had six defensive rebounds in the first half, had an issue with her surgically repaired foot and did not play in the second half. The Storm would amass 15 (!) offensive rebounds to help earn 14 second chance points. Killer.
The Lynx would claw and scratch their way to the finish line. Despite giving up four wide open Epiphany Prince three pointers in the fourth quarter alone - all from the same spot mind you - Minnesota would still somehow rally from a late five-point deficit.
KAY MAC TO TIE THE GAME!— WNBA (@WNBA) June 15, 2022
1:36 left in the game ESPN pic.twitter.com/WIqzcscKtj
Of course, as foreshadowing would tell you, the Lynx would get one final stop with about 6.7 seconds and a chance to call a timeout and tie the game. Instead they would give up their final offensive rebound of the night. A bunch of arms swung wildly at the ball before it caromed out to a Storm player. Minnesota watched helplessly as the clock struck zero and a number of them clutched at their knees, hanging their heads in disappointment on the court.
The Lynx continue to remain at the bottom of the league with a 3-12 record.
Last time the Minnesota Lynx were in the lottery, Aliyah Boston was in third grade. #WNBA— Richard Cohen (@RichardCohen1) June 15, 2022
Oh yeah, and this was a stat before the game ended.
Interesting stat with about 3.5 minutes to go in this game:— Mitchell Hansen (@M_Hansen13) June 15, 2022
The #Storm have attempted 14 free throws so far tonight, making 12 of those attempts.
The #Lynx, on the other hand, are just 1-for-1 from the line.
When it rains, it pours, huh?
Things only get tougher for the Lynx, as they embark on two-game road trip after four days off. It begins against the league-best (11-2) Las Vegas Aces on Sunday 6/14 @ 5:00pm CT. Becky Hammon’s squad has been demolishing their opponents by an average of 10.4 points per game. They also know how to have fun.