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Storm 88, Lynx 74: Imbalanced, Inefficient Scoring Sinks Minnesota At Home

Seattle star guard Jewell Loyd led all scorers with 28 points, while Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu got it done on the inside with eight points and 14 rebounds.

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx returned home on Sunday evening looking to sweep a two-game, home-and-home set with the Seattle Storm after a 78-70 road win in the Emerald City on Friday night.

Fully expecting Seattle’s best punch, Minnesota began the game with a noticeably subdued collective demeanor.

While Storm star Jewell Loyd started the game 1/6 from the floor, her team built an early lead behind a pair of triples from sharpshooting guard Sami Whitcomb, who was a top priority for the Lynx defense. Entering Sunday, Whitcomb had only three games of scoring 20 points or more — all of them coming against the Lynx. Minnesota consistently went under on screens and allowed several wide open looks due to miscommunication while in rotation, neither of which were part of the game plan.

Meanwhile, Napheesa Collier, Kayla McBride, Diamond Miller and Jess Shepard all struggled to score early, combining to shoot 3/14 in the first 7:30 of game action. After a Tiffany Mitchell corner 3 opened the scoring, the Lynx entered a 1/9 shooting stretch, turned it over five times to Seattle’s zero, and the Storm grabbed control after one, 21-15.

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Lynx’s defensive struggles continued into the second, allowing Loyd to score 14 points with nine of them coming from downtown.

“We were terrible defensively,” Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve said postgame. “The focal point was to get them off the 3-point line. We went under screens, we were out of plays, and they’re wide open, five 3s in the first half for [Whitcomb and Loyd] alone. Five makes.

“Our pick and roll defense, our point of the screen defense was horrendous. We were inconsistent with what we were doing and certainly didn’t play with the same energy on-ball with Jewell either. So maybe that was unrealistic to expect it to happen. But we just weren’t good enough. And they were.”

Mitchell continued her strong play into the second quarter, scoring seven points by way of some strong takes to the rim to go with a pair of dimes and zero turnovers, starting at point guard in place of Lindsay Allen (fractured thumb).

“Just playing to my strengths, but also within the system. That’s mainly what I do at the 1,” Mitchell told Canis Hoopus postgame. “This is a different look with me at the 1 than it is with L.A. I just tried to play to what I do best.”

She delivered the highlight of the night with a beautiful skip pass over the top of the defense to McBride in the opposite corner for a quick trigger 3.

McBride and Collier added seven points each as the team shot 10/11 from the free throw line and committed just one turnover, as the Lynx actually retook a one-point lead with 3:22 to go in the half. But that work was for nothing, as they couldn’t slow down Loyd, who drained a pair of 3s to help balloon the Storm lead back to 47-40 at the break.

Seattle came out of halftime with the same intention they started the game with, taking full advantage of a lethargic Lynx squad seemingly uninterested in playing defense, or moving the ball and doing the work required to generate open looks on offense. A 6-0 Seattle run prompted a Reeve timeout, but it didn’t help much, as the Storm eventually got the lead as high as 15 (57-42) 90 seconds later thanks to strong interior play from Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu.

The rookie forward scored eight of the team’s 17 points in the quarter, grabbed three rebounds on each end of the floor, blocked a shot, and made it extremely difficult for the Lynx to close out possessions with a defensive rebound.

After corralling themselves, the Lynx built some momentum behind their best defensive stretch of the game, during which Seattle went nearly five minutes without scoring. With the Lynx down seven, Collier grabbed a rebound off a Loyd miss and Minnesota had a five-on-four situation; what should’ve been a bucket on the other end became a turnover and a quick bucket for Seattle, who then parlayed that into a quick 7-0 run. Instead of it being a five-point game, it was quickly back to 14 late in the third within exactly 1:00 of game time.

Despite holding the Storm to 6/21 (28.6%) shooting in the third, Minnesota allowed the Seattle lead to grow because they shot just 3/14 (21.4%), including just 2/8 in the paint, and turned it over four times. Minnesota scored just 12 points in the third, something that just cannot happen after scoring only 15 in the opening frame.

Head Coach Noelle Quinn’s Storm squad controlled the fourth and rolled to an 88-74 victory behind advantages scoring in the paint, rebounding on both ends, scoring off the bench, and 3-point shooting.

Let’s get into the takeaways.

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

Imbalanced Scoring Driving Struggles

The Lynx are no strangers to losing in part due to top-heavy scoring. Tonight was another example of why it is such a crushing problem.

40 of Minnesota’s 52 points in the first three quarters came from the Collier/McBride/Mitchell trio, and the team’s bench mustered just four points on 0/7 shooting. Miller scored six points on 2/10 shooting, while Shepard connected on one of five shots for two points — a wretched night for the team’s crucial ancillary scorers.

“We didn’t get much from the bench overall. As we went through our depth chart, we got to the point where we [thought], ‘We had two points,” Reeve told Canis Hoopus postgame.

With the result essentially decided after three quarters, Reeve gave extended minutes in the fourth quarter to Rachel Banham and Miller to try and get them back on track.

“We’re not getting what we need from Banham, or what she was doing before she was injured. That was something we were trying to do today was try to put her in the game and try to figure some things out. And that was in the stretch where the game was pretty much decided, but try to get her going because we need that,” Reeve added.

Reeve also went to Aerial Powers in a somewhat surprising move, given that Powers on Saturday night tweeted her intentions to play for another team next season.

“So then we got to the point where we said ‘Okay, well Powers is going to try to score and let’s see if we can get some points.”

To her credit, Powers scored 12 points in the final frame, but the result was already decided.

With the Lynx’s next five games coming against playoff teams capable of getting up points in a hurry, it will be pivotal for the Lynx to find a way to generate more balanced production. That is a tall task without Allen, the team’s conductor in the half-court, but the team has dealt with injuries, stretches of poor play resulting in fluctuating minutes, and general off-nights all season long.

“Our understanding of how to play side-to-side, inside out, it’s just not it’s not there. And if we can’t score in the paint, if we don’t get we want the paint, we don’t know what to do next,” Reeve said postgame. “At this point in the season, I mean, we’ve talked about this, we’ve talked about inside out, we’ve talked about drawing low defenders and playing on the backside, and we didn’t do it. We didn’t do it. We did it in Seattle a little bit, but not enough. We didn’t do it at all today.”

The team’s lack of consistent 3-point shooting is also a key point of frustration for Reeve. After shooting 3/6 from deep in the first quarter, the Lynx connected on just one of 12 3-point attempts over the final three quarters. Minnesota shot a ghastly 1/13 (7.7%) on above the break 3-pointers.

“We’ve just got to find a way [to make more shots]. I told them to get in the gym and shoot, so that when we kick it out and you’re open and you can stand there and knock it down,” she said in a stern, frustrated tone. “We’ve got to be able to do that. Otherwise you’re awfully one dimensional.”

Any night you turn on a Lynx game, you have no idea who is going to join Napheesa Collier and Kayla McBride in double figure scoring, and whether that production is going to be a one-night aberration or something to build upon. That’s a troubling attribute for a team in the thick of the race for one of the final three playoff spots, hoping to be competitive in a first-round series.

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Out-Worked in Key Areas

After a season of getting destroyed in the points off turnovers and second chance points categories in 2022, the Lynx have actually done a good job in both areas for much of this season; but on Sunday night, they got absolutely destroyed.

Seattle scored a combined 41 points off turnovers and second chance points to Minnesota’s 17. The Storm grabbed one more offensive rebound than the Lynx, yet scored nine more point off of additional possessions. To make matters worse, Minnesota allowed an offensive rebound on 39.3% of the Storm’s 2-point attempts, a bad mark for a team that has prided itself on rebounding and running in transition.

Even though only four of the Lynx’s 12 turnovers were live-ball turnovers (a Storm steal), Seattle still did an excellent job of converting those giveaways. The Storm scored more than three times as many points off turnovers as the Lynx did (six), despite Minnesota generating more live-ball turnovers (six).

The Lynx simply have to do a better job of either converting turnovers into points, taking care of the ball, or both. They can’t fail to do both and expect to win, or even keep it competitive in a loss.

No Allen certainly hurts, as the Lynx have a higher live-ball turnover percentage with L.A. on the bench (52.8%) than they do with her on the floor (46.1%), per PBP Stats. But they will have to figure things out without her, especially in the half-court, where they have struggled with Allen off the floor; Minnesota’s offensive rating on first chances is significantly better (91.2) with Allen out there than without her (86.6), so finding ways to move the ball, generate cleaner looks and activate bench scorers will be essential down the stretch of the season.

Up Next

Minnesota will welcome Satou Sabally, Arike Ogunbowale and the streaking Dallas Wings to Target Center on Tuesday night at 7 PM. Fans can watch the game on Bally Sports North Extra and Twitter.

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