The Start - Collier Turns Up the Heat
Both teams entered the tonight’s contest on different ends of the spectrum. With a nearly week-long break courtesy of the Commissioner’s Cup finals, the Seattle Storm were riding a two-game win streak despite still being at the bottom of the standings. On the other end, the Minnesota Lynx got to stew about their loss to the Indiana Fever as they jockey for playoff seeding. How would it play out as they met on the court?
A back-and-forth start featured outstanding play by Ezi Magbegor, who scored 10 of her 13 points in the first period. However, it didn’t last long until MVP-candidate Napheesa Collier (24/10/4) decided to take matters into her own hands. After watching her team struggle offensively without PG1 Lindsay Allen on the court, Phee took matters into her own hands. She bullied her way to seven straight points, fueling a 10-0 run that earned the Lynx a 23-18 lead after the first quarter buzzer. During the postgame presser, Coach Cheryl Reeve applauded Collier’s ability to impose her will and explode through and around players.
The Meat - KMac’s the Quickest in a Game of Runs
Things got quite a bit juicier in the second period. Just minutes into the quarter, the Lynx committed three straight fouls and coupled it with three turnovers which put them in a dangerous position. Thankfully, they still had Kayla McBride (21/4/4) on their roster. Without Lindsay Allen, who’s out with injury for the foreseeable future, KMac had a good deal of ballhandling duties. She was able to stabilize the offense while also splashing in jumper after jumper. All the while, she more than pulled her weight on the defensive end, acting as the primary defender on league’s scoring leader, Jewell Loyd, holding her to 1/9 from the field in the first half. After the game, both Reeve and Collier praised KMac’s ability to initiate offense, score, and defend at an outstanding level.
It felt as though Seattle was ready to pack it in for the night early, looking down the barrel of a 12-point deficit. However, perhaps it was the presence of local heroes Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe in the house which ignited both the home crowd and the Storm after a timeout. The Storm were shot out of a cannon in the form of a 10-0 run, mostly on the back of Sami Whitcomb’s offensive explosion (23 points, 5 3PM). Now trailing by just two points, Whitcomb drilled her third trey of that stretch which would’ve pulled Seattle back ahead, but it was negated by a moving screen call against Magbegor. That gamebreaker resulted in a 7-2 response by the Lynx courtesy of timely scores by Tiffany Mitchell (14 points), who just had her jersey retired by the University of South Carolina earlier this week.
The Finish - Tiffany Mitchell Outlasts Jewell Loyd
Minnesota entered the second half with a seven-point lead which didn’t get fully challenged. Loyd, who was being locked up all game, also got beat up physically with a smack to the face followed by a scary looking knee-to-knee collision. Magbegor, who was only one of two effective Storm players, struggled with foul trouble. The rest of the Lynx squad picked up the pieces in a dicey third quarter where both teams shot below 34% from the field. It was death by a thousand cuts as Minnesota continued to nudge and nudge the lead further ahead, all the way up to a 64-50 advantage heading into the final period.
KMac continued to bomb away from deep as it looked like the Lynx were finally going to stroll to the finish line, but Whitcomb was on fire and met McBride shot for shot. It was a two-person three-point contest.
The Storm were somehow able to stay within arm’s reach due to some comical late-game execution by Minnesota. Additionally, seemingly at the worst possible time, Loyd’s fire flickered back to life for a few minutes, chipping in 8 of her 15 points in the final four minutes of the game. Mitchell was able to keep pace, hitting a pair of critical jumpers which bought enough time until Loyd transformed back into a brick layer (5/19 FG).
The victory, which never truly felt in question, was a full team effort. Although rookie Diamond Miller struggled (3/9 FG, 5 TOV), Minnesota’s other rookie Dorka Juhász (7/12/4) was outstanding all night long. Coach Reeve gushed about her rookie during the presser, speaking on how big her rebounding was and why she trusted Juhász over Jessica Shepard (10 mins). The Lynx are now tied with the Washington Mystics for 6th place in the standings and just 0.5 GB of the 5th place Atlanta Dream.
Both teams run it back, this time at Target Center. The Lynx welcome the Seattle Storm on Sunday (8/20) at 6:00pm CT to close out the season series with just three weeks left of the regular season. Minnesota is up 3-0 against Seattle this year.