Ever since their dominant first half against the Seattle Storm last Thursday night, things have gone sideways for the Minnesota Lynx against the defending champs.
Head coach Cheryl Reeve called the loss one of the most disappointing nights of her tenure with the Lynx, crediting the Storm’s culture of up-tempo, unselfish basketball for picking apart the Lynx defense.
The Storm got out to a 17-4 run in the first 4:43 of the game, behind crisp ball movement, excellent cutting and penetration into the paint that allowed Seattle guards to make plays for their wings and bigs to score easy buckets.
Through the first four games, Minnesota has struggled with over-rotating on the strong side of the floor, especially when trying to contain opposing star players. Tonight, they faced off with reigning MVP Breanna Stewart, who, despite not scoring much or recording an assist, made a major impact on the offensive end.
Stewart’s presence in the short corners and beyond the three-point line drew Lynx interior defenders out of the paint, where they struggled to communicate ball screens. As a result, the Storm carved up the Lynx defense with timely cuts and excellent passes.
After weathering the early storm, the Lynx roared back against the defending champs thanks to 3s from Kayla McBride and Bridget Carleton, both of which were set up by superstar forward Napheesa Collier.
Phee made her season debut tonight after returning from her overseas team in France. Collier’s presence opened up the floor, allowing the Lynx to get better looks on jumpers in the first half.
Much unlike the previous matchup, the Lynx are the team getting it done outside the paint.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) May 29, 2021
24 of Seattle's 29 points are in the paint, while only 10 of Minnesota's 27 points are in the paint. Lynx getting it done with jumpers
With Aerial Powers out with a left hamstring strain, Collier thrived assuming Powers’ role as a lead ball-handler in Cheryl Reeve’s offense. Collier, as one of the best players in the W, used the attention she drew from the Seattle defense to make kick-outs to teammates for open jumpers, and her size at 6-foot-2 to make feathery entry passes into Sylvia Fowles on the block. Fowles’ footwork was again tremendous all night long, en route to a team-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Collier averaged 3.3 assists last season, but given her role without Powers, I expect her to improve on that mark with the live dribble passing, athleticism, and vision she put on full display last season and again tonight with a team-high six assists.
Napheesa Collier's height + ability to pass into the post is a big boost for the Lynx.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) May 29, 2021
The way Cheryl Reeve can place her all over the floor really opens things up for the Lynx.
She's been pushing the pace as a lead ball-handler in transition, too.
Collier’s aggressive attacks brought the Lynx back to within four, 27-23, at the end of the first. Once the second quarter started, everything unraveled for Cheryl Reeve’s short-handed squad.
After scoring four points in the first 1:17 of the quarter, the Lynx scored just nine points in the final 8:43. Minnesota’s offense lacked patience, which resulted in rushed possessions, poor shots, and misses on the easy opportunities players like Collier and Dangerfield did create for their teammates.
On the other end, Minnesota failed to control Seattle’s efficient, up-tempo pace and dribble penetration. This often resulted in an overloaded halfcourt, in which Seattle’s excellent passing backcourt took full advantage. Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd and Epiphanny Price had five assists each, many of which were to cutters such as Candace Dupree and Stewart, who made Minnesota pay inside all night long.
Much unlike the previous matchup between these two teams, Seattle really struggled shooting the 3, yet still were able to get out to a huge lead because of their dominance inside. Seattle cut phenomenally well, controlled the glass, and were excellent in transition, resulting in an impressive doubling up of the Lynx with 56 points in the paint, compared to Minnesota’s 28.
After a beginning the game 3-of-5 from 3 in the first quarter, Minnesota closed shooting just 3-of-20 the rest of the way, which keeping pace with the Storm very difficult. Following the game tonight, the Lynx are the worst 3-point shooting team in the W at 23.5% and are losing on the 3-point line by an average of 9.6 points per game, which trails only the Indiana Fever’s -16.8 mark.
The Lynx made the score look far closer than it actually was; after the Storm led by as much as 30 in the third quarter, Minnesota held the Seattle without a point for the final 8:32, finishing the game on a 19-0 run. The run was led by Carleton, who was a team-high +19 in her 23:24 of action. She finished with a team-high 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting, three rebounds and two assists, and continues to impress with her growing offensive game as a shooter and playmaker off the dribble, in addition to her excellent slashing ability.
With a loss tonight, the Lynx fell to 0-4, the worst record in the W. However, with Collier back in the mix and a stable of long, very capable defenders on the roster, expect the Lynx to turn things around in the coming weeks. Hopefully the Lynx can carry their fourth-quarter momentum into Sunday’s home matchup against the 4-1 Connecticut Sun. Tip-off is set for 6 PM CT at Target Center.