With just three weeks to go in the regular season, time is running out for teams in the WNBA to secure their postseason position.
Entering Sunday, just three games separated the No. 4 and No. 8 seed; the difference between a bye and home playoff game, or heading on the road in a loser-out first round matchup.
Seattle inched closer to clinching at least a top-six spot in the standings (and home game) by night’s end, with a 82-74 win over Minnesota at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Six Storm players finished in double figures — led by 14 points from Jordin Canada and 13 each from Natasha Howard and Jewell Loyd — to offset Odyssey Sims’ season-high 30.
Following a heartbreaking loss on Friday in Connecticut, where the Storm saw a seven-point lead vanish in the final 90 seconds, head coach Dan Hughes said there are two ways he’s seen teams respond.
“I’ve been around enough to know that sometimes teams respond to [losses like that] like the way we did tonight and sometimes they kind of feel sorry for themselves,” he said. “I’m just really glad they responded.”
Seattle (15-13) started the game on a 11-0 run — aided by five Minnesota (13-14) turnovers in the first five minutes — and led by seven after 10 minutes. The team pushed the edge to nine at the break, thanks to 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point range and 11 points off the bench from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.
The lead ballooned to as many as 15 in the third, before a 10-0 Minnesota run in the final three minutes of the quarter cut the gap to four heading to the fourth. That was thanks in no small part to Sims, who kept the team within striking distance and then sparked the run by scoring the first 18 of Minnesota’s 24 third-quarter points.
“That’s just my competitive edge,” she said. “I hate to lose so whatever I can do to help my team get back in the game. I just came out ready to play.”
But that’s as close as the Lynx got.
While Hughes typically waits to reinsert his starting five for the game’s closing minutes, he opted to start the quarter with Loyd, Clark, Russell, and Howard back on the court, leaving only Canada on the bench.
“I just wanted that presence back on the floor,” he said.
The move paid off, with Seattle extending its lead back to double digits down the stretch.
With the win, Seattle holds the No. 6 seed with six games to play, and pulled within a game and a half of No. 4 seed Los Angeles, while the Lynx dropped behind Phoenix into eighth place in the standings. Despite the result, Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve acknowledged it may have provided a good learning experience.
“A hard game on the road in the playoffs — this is what that looks like,” she said. “From that standpoint, if we can get there, we’ll have a sense of what that feels like because we’re likely to be on the road.”
Minnesota wraps its quick two-game road swing on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, while Seattle continues its four-game homestand next Sunday against Indiana.
- Attendance: 9,000 (sellout)
- Natasha Howard became the Storm’s single-season record-holder for steals, picking up her 62nd of the year in the first quarter.
- Crystal Langhorne joined Sue Bird, Lauren Jackson, and Camille Little as the fourth player in Storm franchise history to record 1,000 rebounds with the team.
- With the victory, Seattle clinched the season series against Minnesota 3-1. The Storm dropped the first game in Minneapolis 72-61 on May 29, before winning 84-77 in Seattle on June 4, 90-79 on the road on July 17, and on Sunday.
- Before the game, head coach Dan Hughes, Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart, and Jewell Loyd received their 2018 FIBA World Cup Championship Rings after leading Team USA to a perfect 6-0 record.