Fast starts were the key to Minnesotas two early-season wins over the Seattle Storm at Target Center. In their first two meetings, the Lynx outscored the Storm by a combined 42-17 in the first quarters, holding Seattle to 6-of-31 shooting during those two first periods.
Sunday was a different story.
The Storm came out intense in front of their home crowd, challenged the Lynx early and came away with a 65-62 win at Key Arena in Seattle. The win snapped Minnesotas league-record 10-game winning streak to start the season and halted its 13-game regular season winning streak dating back to 2011.
The Lynx opened up the game shooting 4-for-16 from the field and fell behind by as many as 17 points in the first half before mounting a comeback that brought them to within 63-62 with 16 seconds left.
It was a matter of us not responding in the first half, coach Cheryl Reeve said. In that first five minutes, when a team is punching you in the face, punching you in the face, it doesnt usually take us that long to respond. It took us 20 minutes before we decided to respond.
Now the key for Minnesota (10-1) is to use their second-half response to their advantage as they return home Thursday for a matchup with the New York Liberty. The Lynx outscored Seattle 33-22 in the final 20 minutes Sunday, thanks to matching Seattles defensive intensity and getting key stops and rebounds that helped Minnesota climb back into contention.
Reeve said the team wasnt worried about being able to come backtheyve seen enough examples of teams recovering from big deficits to know its possible, including San Antonio rebounding from 21 points down to cut Minnesotas lead to 2 with seconds left.
The problem was Minnesota waited too long to make its move.
I was very happy in the second half, but disappointed we didnt respond in the first half, Reeve said.
The biggest difference between Sundays loss and many of Minnesotas early-season victories came in the paint and in its shooting efficiency.
Minnesota leads the league with a 50.0 percent shooting percentage and is first in the league with a 39.7 percent efficiency from 3-point range. On Sunday, the Lynx shot 37.5 percent from the field and hit 3-of-12 from beyond the arcall of which came in the second half.
In the paint, Minnesota has dominated opponents by corralling rebounds and owning a significant points advantage. On Sunday, the Lynx edged Seattle 26-24 in the points in the paint department.
Keeping them out of the paint was good, Storm coach Brian Agler said. I just think that some of the intangibles were more importantsome of the loose balls and long rebounds, just staying in some rotations defensively. Thats the stuff you dont see on the stat sheet.
Reeve said Seattle and its crowd had a lot to do with Minnesotas first defeat.
I thought Seattle played really hard and were far more determined than we were to win the game, Reeve said. We didnt show up until the second half, and that was a little disappointing. But Seattle earned it. They played really, really well and they hung their hats on their defense [Sunday] and that gave them a chance to win the game.
The Lynx will now move on with two home games this week against the Liberty and Sky, and during the rest of their Road to Repeat they wont have the questions surrounding a bid for an undefeated season. Now they simply need to take one game at a time, starting with the Liberty.
Forward Maya Moore said the Lynx see the distinction between Sundays two halves and what they need to do to rebound.
The second half is who we want to be and who we are, Moore said. For whatever reason, we couldnt get connected in the first half enough for a very hungry and motivated Seattle team. But thats what happens when we dont bring everything that we have for 40 minutes. Were disappointed in ourselves, but such respect for Seattle for coming in and doing what they needed to do.
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