Breanna Stewart finished the night with 17 points, one shy of 3000 WNBA career points, and Jewell Lloyd also scored 17 to lead all scorers as the Storm (1-0) throttled the Minnesota Lynx (0-1) 97-74 on opening night at Climate Pledge Arena.
Seattle overcame a slow start in the first quarter thanks to the fact that it outscored the Lynx 34-14 in the third quarter.
This game was ultimately decided when the Storm went on a 10-0 run in the first two minutes and fourteen seconds of the third quarter. Lloyd started off the run with a jumper off of a beautiful pass from Sue Bird; Bird then drained a three on Seattle’s next offensive possession; that was followed up by a two pointer from Ezi Magbegor on the next offensive possession for Seattle. A Breanna Stewart capped off Seattle’s scoring during that stretch.
Minnesota wouldn’t score its first bucket of the second half until two minutes and thirty-four seconds had passed when Slyvia Fowles drilled a 13-footer to cut Seattle’s lead down to nine. The Storm responded by scoring the next eight points before the Lynx could get another bucket.
Down by 20 at the start of the final frame, the Lynx needed to find buckets early and often. While they were able to score the first bucket of the fourth quarter when Jessica Shepard drilled a bank shot, the Lynx were unable to find any consistence on offense as Seattle kept generating turnovers. The ballgame was put out of reach when Stewart hit a three to make it 82-61 with 6:23 left in the game and everyone held their breath to see if the 27 year old would become the second fastest player to score 3000 career WNBA points…she finished the night one short.
Stewart’s night ended after she sunk a pair of free throws that followed a hard foul at the rim — if the shot had gone in she would have had a chance at the three-point play and 3000 points on the and-one.
Seattle finished the game with five players in double digits — Stewart, Lloyd, Bird, Stephanie Talbot, and Epiphanny Prince. The big difference maker in this game was the fact that the Storm had hit 12 of their 25 three pointers (38%) while Minnesota only hit 3 of its 21 (19%). That cold shooting from beyond the arc really hurt the Lynx and kept their offense — which was already short handed entering tonight — from finding any kind of rhythm.
Magbegor nailed a put back jumper after she pulled in a rebound off of Lloyd’s missed 24-footer to tie it at 41 with 12.2 seconds left. Aerial Powers missed a 18-footer at the buzzer to send the game to the intermission with Seattle and Minnesota tied.
The Storm had outscored Minnesota 8-2 in the final two minutes of the game to overcome a five-point deficit. It started with a Williams put back that came after Lloyd drove the lane but missed the layup. Bird also hit her first three pointer of the season on a transition bucket that came after a beautiful block by Williams on Seattle’s previous defensive possession.
It was a back-and forth half that saw both squads reel off runs to take the lead and then immediately surrender said lead as the other squad responded. Seattle’s 8-2 run at the end of the half came because of an 11-0 run the Lynx went on to make it 39-34. That run was started by a 16-footer from Powers and was capped off with a pair of free throws by Sims.
Powers had started that 11-0 run when Minnesota was down six after Lavender had sank a practically uncontested. That six point lead had come after Seattle had gone on a run, which had come after a Minnesota run and so on. In fact, it took a 10-2 run for the Storm to get back into the game towards the end of the first quarter as they had trailed 8-18 at one point.
Both squads seemed to struggle with the sightlines in Climate Pledge Arena at first as the Storm had only hit two of their first six field goal attempts; while Minnesota had hit one of its five. Lloyd scored the first bucket at Climate Pledge when she drained a 20-footer 1:13 seconds into the game and Jessica Shepard (Minnesota) sank the building’s first three about midway through the first quarter.
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Photo Credit: Jennifer Buchanan / The Seattle Times