July 29, 2020
Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart carry Storm over Lynx
What we learned about Seattle in their 2-0 start
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UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT/USA – July 20, 2018: Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird (10) during a Seattle Storm vs Connecticut Sun WNBA basketball game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo Credit: Chris Poss
Tuesday night’s contest between the Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx was a rematch of the first round of the 2019 postseason. The difference in 2020? A healthy Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart. Last season’s Storm still matched up favorably with the Lynx, but there’s no denying the edge having Bird and Stewart provides.
The 90-66 final score would suggest the Storm ran over the Lynx again. However, that ignores and undersells the effort Minnesota gave in the first half and much of the third quarter.
In reality, Seattle never held a double-digit lead in the first half and there were three ties through the first 20 minutes.
Stewart had five of Seattle’s 11 first-half rebounds as Minnesota shot 4-of-8 on second-chance opportunities, resulting in 16 points. Despite the Lynx outrebounding the Storm 22-to-11 in the half, the Storm still held a six-point lead. The Storm knew they needed to adjust.
“Rebounding was the No.1 thing. They had nine offensive rebounds going into halftime and they had 15 second-chance points and I think that was the difference,” said Jordin Canada. “We were putting them on the line and fouling and so we just made a commitment in the second half to rebound and push the pace to keep them off the mark.”
Canada’s coach Gary Kloppenburg echoed her statements, calling the Storm’s first-half rebounding “too soft” and better work on the glass was a need. Kloppenburg praised the work Alysha Clark did on Napheesa Collier to reduce her touches and the Storm brought double and triple teams on Fowles to slow her in the second half.
When the Storm held just a four-point lead nearing the midway point of the third quarter, it felt like the Lynx were going to hang around. Stewart canned a 3-pointer that ignited a 20-7 run to finish the quarter.
The Storm were still outrebounded in the second half but held the Lynx to 29.4 percent shooting and outscored them 21-14 in the fourth quarter to close the game.
Shooters Stay Ready
A big reason the Storm eventually pulled away from the Lynx was because of their perimeter shooting. The Storm shot 11-for-25 from deep, including 5-for-8 from the corners. Six Storm players made at least one triple on Tuesday night. By comparison, the Lynx shot just 5-for-18.
The Storm offense was often a thing of beauty. Players made an intentional effort to get to the spots they needed and always seemingly had a good look from the corner. It helps further when a team like the Storm wins the assists battle 25-13. Every ball-handler was willing to make the extra pass to find the player with the best shot.
Sue Bird led the way for Seattle shooting 4-of-6 from deep. While Bird is a great facilitator and shooter, her work off the ball to get to the right spots for open looks helped set them apart.
“Some nights they drop, and when that happens and you’re open, you just got to keep shooting it,” Bird said. “Today I got some really good looks. When our offense has got the ball moving around, you saw what happens. You get open, we have great three-point shooters, and we can have stretches like that where we hit two, three, four in a row and it just opens up the game and that’s it. But I think for me personally, like you just joked, if you’re a threat out there, especially at the three-point line, you’re always going to have a place on a team, I think especially at the point guard spot. So I always try to make sure I’m getting better. It’s not actually about getting better, it’s just one area that I try to be, like you said, as efficient as possible. Some days are better than others, and today was a good day.”
Bird consistently found herself in the corners for those higher percentage 3-pointers and connected on half of them. Many of these looks were open because her and her team moved and selflessly swung the ball so well. Her coach was less than surprised.
“She’s an amazing player,” Kloppenburg said. “She just lets the game come to her. She finds that spot to get the open threes, and I think when we’re moving the ball and it’s kind of zipping around and they have to help on somebody else, they know where to find her in the corners or up in the high wing areas. She’s a pure shooter. That’s something that when she’s 90 she’ll probably still be able to shoot the ball like that, because that’s something she’s always been that. She’s just doing outstanding. I thought she did a good job defensively, keeping people in front of her for the most part. It is amazing that you’re not surprised anymore with her.”
Seattle will look to continue their strong play against the Washington Mystics on Thursday.