The Lynx look formidable
MINNEAPOLIS — Wednesday night’s 72-61 victory over Seattle didn’t look like a sure thing on paper for Minnesota. Despite missing Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, the Storm managed to beat Phoenix by nine points on Saturday in their season opener. While Phoenix has their own injury issues, they arguably have as much, if not more depth remaining than Seattle.
It seems that the Lynx agreed that the Storm were not to be looked past.
The Lynx set the tone early with their defense. Seattle shot just 4-for-16 from the field and scored nine points in the first quarter, followed by 15 points in the second quarter. With Natasha Howard and Jordin Canada in early foul trouble, the Storm had to dig deeper into their bench for help and couldn’t get things going.
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Offense continued to challenge the Lynx, but the team found ways to earn high-percentage shots in the paint and at the free throw line. Despite a poor shooting night from Sylvia Fowles, the Lynx had 26 of their 39 first-half points in the paint and added seven more at the free throw line. It turns out that easy looks and defense can cover up larger issues like turnovers and poor offensive execution.
A 3-pointer from Damiris Dantas and a pull-up jumper to being the second half pushed the Lynx’s lead to 20 points and forced the Storm to take a timeout less than a minute into the third quarter.
Howard finally got going in the third frame, playing all 10 minutes and scoring 10 points in the quarter. Unfortunately, Odyssey Sims and Dantas also combined for 14 points in the third to give the Lynx a 17-point lead going into the final quarter. Although the Lynx committed seven turnovers and shot 3-of-13 from the field, the Lynx wouldn’t lose their lead.
Here are some further takeaways from both the Seattle side and Minnesota side.
New Lynx players are developing chemistry quickly on the defensive end
With the game essentially won, the Lynx trotted out a lineup of Damiras Dantas, Jessica Shepard, Napheesa Collier, Lexie Brown, and Odyssey Sims midway through the fourth quarter. All five players were new additions this offseason, yet their defensive connectedness shone through in their crisp and timely rotations. This is a level of chemistry that takes time to build but is already showing this early for the Lynx.
Cheryl Reeve said after the game that the team has practiced so often together that the newness has lessened and that they’re good basketball players that focus on doing their jobs. Sylvia Fowles stated that this team’s perimeter defense is as good as any she has played with in Minnesota.
“If anything I think we’re locked in defensively. Sometimes the offense might not go our way,” said Fowles. “Sometimes we might be a little stagnant but that’s our bread and butter and always has been for the Lynx. I think that gets us going so I don’t think we have a choice but to be connected in that area.”
Right now, the Lynx need their defense to be in top shape while their offense comes around. If the Lynx can create easy transition looks from turnovers and rebounds, they can set themselves for easy looks that help develop chemistry on the offensive end.
Lynx’s turnover problem persists
Despite having a 2-0 record and two double-digit victories, the Lynx lead the league in turnovers by a good margin at 21.5 per game. While Lynx guards had success penetrating the lane off of the pick ‘n’ roll, the Storm were often able to strip the ball from the ball handler.
Danielle Robinson and Odyssey Sims combined for 11 total turnovers on Wednesday, not ideal from your starting backcourt, and Lexie Brown was the only Lynx player to play more than 10 minutes and not turn the ball over.
The Lynx have survived despite a high number of turnovers but it will eventually cost them games if they’re not careful. Cutting back on the number of shot clock violations could easily take a couple of turnovers off the box score.
Another night of balanced scoring for the Lynx
Coach Reeve pointed out that the Lynx night Maya Moore and Fowles to have a good game to win or one of those two to have a good game to win. If neither played well, chances are the team would lose.
That’s not the case with this year’s team, as the Lynx had four players scored between 10 and 15 points while two other players added nine points each. This isn’t dissimilar to Saturday’s season-opening victory over Chicago in which five Lynx players scored in double digits.
Fowles, in particular, was impressed with the ability for any player to pick up the scoring load on a given night. This has to be a relief for someone like Fowles, who shot just 3-of-9 from the field, to know that at least one of her teammates can step up if she has a rough game.
It was Sims that led the Lynx with 15 points, five assists and four rebounds at the end of the night.
A tale of two Howards
There wasn’t much to write home about for the Storm in Wednesday’s game. Just two players managed to score in double digits: Jewel Lloyd and Natasha Howard. However, Lloyd needed 21 shots to score her team-high 18 points, but Howard turned in another strong performance after early foul trouble.
Howard was just 2-for-6 with five rebounds and two fouls in the first half but finished with 18 points and five rebounds on 8-for-15 shooting in the second half. Her second-half effectiveness shows just how critical she is to this Seattle team. On Wednesday night, she helped chip away at the Lynx’s lead on offense and using her length to frustrate Fowles on the defensive end.
Another Howard, Anriel Howard, made a difference. This Howard played just 10 minutes but prevented the Lynx from posting the bigger Napheesa Collier on her by denying the Lynx rookie position and multiple entry passes. Posting up smaller guards was how the Lynx created scoring opportunities in Collier’s impressive debut and Howard made her work for position on the block. Howard’s effort won’t show itself in the box score but was evident to anyone watching the game.
In the end, Collier played efficiently in scoring nine points but was ultimately limited by foul trouble.
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