Professional Basketball

Lynx Surge Past Storm in Season Opener


Seattle Storm guard Skylar Diggins-Smith shoots a layup over Minnesota Lynx guard Courtney Williams during Tuesday’s season opener at Climate Pledge Arena. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sportspage Magazine

The Minnesota Lynx overpowered the Seattle Storm 20-10 in the fourth quarter to win Tuesday night’s season opener 83-70 in front of 8,508 at Seattle’s Climate Pledge Arena. The game was the Seattle franchise’s first game in their 25th season, a milestone the Lynx hit a year ago.

The Storm came rolling out of the gates with a quick 5-2 run with a layup from forward Nneka Ogwumike, who signed with the team in free agency in the off season, and three free throws from center Ezi Magbegor. However, guard Courtney Williams, center Alanna Smith, and forward Napheesa Collier all scored for the Lynx to make it an 8-7 game in favor of the home team with 6:31 left in the opening quarter.

Both teams exchanged baskets and the leads for the rest of the quarter. Smith, the 6-3 center, paced the Lynx with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting including 2-for-2 in three-point range in the opening quarter. That was matched by Seattle guard Jewell Loyd’s 3-for-5 shooting with eight points in the frame. The Storm led 28-26 at the end of the first quarter.

Seattle opened the second quarter on a 6-0 run in the first two minutes, which forced a Minnesota timeout as Collier, Williams and guard Kayla McBride re-entered the ballgame.

Coming out of the timeout, Smith scored a layup and a free throw after getting fouled by Magbegor. Lynx forward Bridget Carleton stole the ball from Ogwumike and dished to Collier for an easy layup. Two layups from Magbegor kept the Storm from losing momentum, but after Carlton missed a three-pointer, Smith offensive board and scored a put back layup to tie the game 38-38 with 2:59 remaining in the half.

Seattle Storm forward Nneka Ogwumike attempts a shot over the outstretched arms of Minnesota Lynx center Alanna Smith during Tuesday’s season opener at Climate Pledge Arena. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sportspage Magazine

Ogwumike put the team on her shoulders with a put back layup after a Loyd missed shot, scored on a step through layup, and then hit a turnaround jumper over the outstretched arms of Carleton, who was guarding her on a mismatch. Ogwumike’s personal 6-0 run made it 44-38 in favor of the Storm with 1:39 left in the half.

However, a defensive three-seconds call on Seattle guard Skylar Diggins-Smith put McBride on the line for a free throw. This was followed by a Williams jump shot, two free throws by Lynx guard Natisha Hiedeman after getting fouled by Diggins-Smith, and a McBride tip-in off of a missed Williams layup. Minnesota took a 45-44 lead at the half.

After a Courtney Williams jump shot opened the third quarter to extend the Lynx lead to three, Ogwumike and Diggins-Smith teamed up for an 8-0 Seattle run to force a Minnesota timeout at the 7:33 mark. When play resumed, Minnesota forward Diamond Miller and Ogwumike exchanged baskets to make the score 54-49 in favor of Seattle.

Like a kitten on catnip, the Lynx pounced.

Collier hit a floater. Williams stole a Magbegor pass and took it to the house for a fast break layup. Seattle called timeout. Seattle guard Jordan Horston and Minnesota center Alanna Smith were tied up for a jump ball, which was tipped to Williams, who dished to Collier for a layup and the Lynx lead. This was followed by a Smith short-range jump shot. Minnesota was now up 57-54 with 3:51 left in the third quarter. Clearly momentum had switched in favor of the visiting team following their 8-0 run.

Still, the Storm held tough. Both teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter and the quarter ended with the visiting Lynx holding a 63-60 advantage. It was still anybody’s game with ten minutes left to play.

Seattle Storm center Ezi Magbegor attempts her only three-point shot of the night during Tuesday’s home opener at Climate Pledge Arena as Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride tries to defend. The shot did not fall. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sportspage Magazine

Diggins-Smith hit a left-handed turnaround shot that rolled off the back of the rim to cut the Storm deficit to one, 63-62. It would be the closest Seattle would come.

Minnesota jumped out to an 11-0 run, largely due to solid defense and allowing Collier to find her spacing. After a Hiedeman layup and Carleton pull up jumper, Collier connected on a three-pointer, then a fade away jumper, and a layup after that. This was answered by a put back layup from Ogwumike, who missed her own shot. Minnesota led 74-64 with 5:25 remaining in the fourth quarter.

The Lynx weren’t finished scoring. Williams hit a pull up jumper, McBride connected on a three-pointer, and Smith was fouled by Magbegor, making one of two free shots. Minnesota was now on a 17-2 run over the last 5:31 and now led 80-64 with 3:29 left in the game.

The Storm continued their fight to stay in the game, but the deficit had grown too big for the amount of time left in the contest. When the buzzer sounded, Minnesota was on top 83-70.

Minnesota went 34-for-75 (45.3 percent) from the field; 7-for-24 (29.2) in three-point range; and 8-for-9 (88.9 percent) in free throw shooting. They committed 17 turnovers which led to 19 Seattle points.

“We were a little disappointed in terms of our paint coverage. Thirty points in the first half in points-in-the-paint were just not what we were after, and it probably took us midway through the third quarter to fully understand where we needed to be and how they were getting the easy stuff,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. “Once we corrected that, it got a little harder for them to score in the paint.”

Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier fights her way through traffic to get a shot off during Tuesday’s season opener against the Seattle Storm at Climate Pledge Arena. Photo by Chuckarelei/Sportspage Magazine

The Storm went 29-for-78 (37.2 percent) from the field; 1-for-9 (11.1 percent) from three-point range; and 11-for-14 (78.6 percent) from the charity stripe. Seattle turned the ball over 17 times which led to 22 Lynx points.

“It’s our first game together in this atmosphere. I think generally we had no flow. We had no ball movement. We made it easy for Minnesota to defeat us,” said Storm head coach Noelle Quinn. “This is a new team. And though, yes, we have excellent players on the roster, it takes time. That God that one day doesn’t determine what the totality of a team will be.”

“What it showed is that we have a lot of work to do. That will come as we build through the games and the adversity that will come. We’ll be better,” she added.

Seattle had a 46-40 edge in points-in-the-paint, but Minnesota led 18-10 in fast break points. The Lynx collected 15 steals, their highest total since swiping a franchise-record 17 vs. Chicago on Sept. 2, 2020.

Alanna Smith set a career-high 22 points to lead the Lynx. Napheesa Collier added 20 points and 12 rebounds. Courtney Williams pitched in 14 points and seven assists for Minnesota.

“Tonight was a good example of a group of really good people working together and you see people succeed. It was a fun first outing,” said Smith.

Nneka Ogwumike led the Storm with 20 points. Ezi Magbegor added 15 points, while Jewell Loyd pitched in with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Skylar Diggins-Smith added 10 points and six assists for Seattle. Guard Sami Whitcomb did not score a three-point basket in the game. It breaks her streak of 31 consecutive games with a three-pointer. It is the second longest in franchise history, as Sue Bird holds the Seattle record with 33.

The teams are starting the season with a back-to-back series, as they play each other on Friday night at 8:30 p.m. CT at Target Center in Minneapolis.

“We play them four times. This is a series. Right now they’re up one. We have an opportunity to kind of even it out,” said Quinn. “It’s probably good that we play them back-to-back because we can make corrections early.”

Lynx forward Napheesa Collier knows the difficulties that Friday might bring.

“Seattle’s a good team and I feel like we kind of shot them down, in the second half especially,” said Collier. “[Friday] is going to be really hard. Playing a good team, especially back-to-back when we just beat them at their house, they’re going to come out swinging. We have to make sure what happened tonight in their home opener doesn’t happen to us.”

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