Minneapolis – Anyone who entered Target Center Tuesday night could feel an intensified atmosphere that hasn’t been felt in the Minneapolis arena since Los Angeles Sparks guard Chelsea Gray hit a buzzer-beater to defeat and deflate the Minnesota Lynx in last month’s season opener.
The Seattle Storm were in town, a team that was 10-4 and sat in the No. 2 spot in the standings prior to the match up versus the Lynx. The hosts were coming home after two impressive wins on the road and four straight wins overall. Fans filled the lower bowl – including coach Lindsay Whalen’s University of Minnesota basketball team – to see if Minnesota’s early season struggles were over, or if their four-game winning streak was just a mirage.
Thanks to the two-headed monster of Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles, Lynx fans went home happy for the third straight time, after a 91-79 win. Moore put up a season-high 32 points, while Fowles scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.
Minnesota, which lost four straight games for the first time in eight years and tumbled to the bottom of the WNBA standings, have now won five in a row and are now 8-6 on the season. Are they back? Coach Cheryl Reeve isn’t making any proclamations.
“We were never here. We weren’t here. To start the game for nine games, we weren’t here,” Reeve said. “I told the team, shame on us. Now we created some of the narratives and we can’t change it now, but we can change everything going forward.”
“We are controlling things, and all we’ve got to do is just take it one game at a time. The biggest game on our schedule is next up versus Atlanta. It’s a huge game for us because it’s the next one.”
The Lynx got out to a 17-7 lead before the Storm battled back and kept things tight for most of the first half. Seattle forward Breanna Stewart, who had 27 points on the night, exchanged buckets with Moore for most of the first half, and both had 16 a piece going into the break. The hosts limited the visitors to 34.2 percent shooting.
Things got interesting in the third quarter, as the Storm continued to struggle from the floor. Fowles notched her tenth rebound one minute into the frame for her league-leading eleventh double-double (138th career), and six minutes later she scored her tenth point for her fifth 20-point 10-rebound game of the season. Moore hit her seventh shot of the game to put the team up by 14, and 30 seconds later she hit her third three-point shot of the game to give them a 58-41 lead at the 5:47 mark.
Seattle head coach Dan Hughes called a timeout in frustration, but nothing changed out of the break with Minnesota point guard Lindsay Whalen stealing a pass and Moore feeding Rebekkah Brunson for an old fashioned three-point play. The Storm committed the team’s tenth turnover with 4:45 left in the third quarter, which lead to eight total Minnesota points. One of the lone bright spots for the visitors in the period was a 60-foot shot by rookie Jordin Canada at the buzzer to trim their deficit to 15.
The Lynx extended their lead to as much as 20 points in the final frame, and the Storm weren’t able to make a serious run to close the gap.
Reeve said she didn’t know if Moore and Fowles had ever played that well together before.
“I told Maya the reason she was able to do what she did was because of what Syl was doing,” Reeve said. “She required so much attention down there, and she finished better, but I don’t know if it’s ever happened to that level.”
Stewart said Seattle wasn’t able to recover from a slow start.
“They came out strong, we were playing catch-up for most of the game and just didn’t have enough to get back into it,” she said.
Coach Dan Hughes said the paint presence of Fowles and Moore kept the Storm from scoring.
“We had a really hard time cleanly rebounding the ball, so we didn’t have a lot of pace coming into our early offense,” he said. “I thought we were much better offensively in the second half, but we weren’t able to play out of our defense. Part of that was their ability to get on the glass and offensive rebounds, I think they had 11. Then Moore and Fowles were excellent. When they needed something done, they played to Fowles inside or they played to Maya, and they delivered.”
The Lynx have now won sixteen straight at home against Seattle and are 38-29 overall in the series (26-8 at home). The Storm’s last win in Minnesota was on July 17, 2010. The Lynx have six on the team’s next nine games at home, including a battle for redemption Friday against Atlanta, who beat them by two points May 29. Seattle hosts the Los Angeles Sparks Thursday.
Brunson tallied nine rebounds in the game and is now 33 away from breaking Tamika Catchings’ WNBA record in that category.
Moore and Fowles combined for 60 combined points, with each player playing over 30-minutes in the win.
Stewart was 10-14 from the field and 3-3 from three-point range. It was the second straight game where she scored 27 or more points, coming off a 28-point game in the Storm’s win over Dallas.
Game attendance was 8,634.