In a locker room full of ticked-off faces, the question was asked whether Seattle really has what it takes to defeat WNBA-leading Minnesota.
After three consecutive attempts, watching endless film to make strategy adjustments, Seattle again couldn’t contain its recent nemesis. The Lynx shot 53.6 percent from the field in the second half and won 75-60 on Saturday.
Seattle (15-16) hosts Minnesota (24-7) again Tuesday at KeyArena for the final matchup of the four-game regular-season series. Minnesota can clinch the Western Conference title with a victory, likely playing Seattle in a best-of-three opening-round playoff series.
“The possibility of playing this team three to four more times, we need to decide how we’re going to play them and have a definitive way,” Storm veteran Tina Thompson said of the team’s defense.
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“This team needs direction and we need to do things in a decisive manner — and when we don’t, we’re a little all over the place.”
Minnesota has won eight of the last nine regular-season games between the teams.
A lively crowd of 8,147 clutched commemorative Storm lunch pails emblazoned with the team’s starters and expected to see Seattle go to work with its signature defense. Instead, for a third time against Minnesota this year, the Storm was a step behind the Lynx to start.
Seattle could manage only incremental improvements, holding Minnesota below its season average (83.2 points) and limiting MVP candidate Maya Moore to 5-of-13 shooting for 11 points.
Moore’s showing was a stark turnaround from the 97-74 Storm loss in Minnesota last week. Then, Moore had 25 points at the break and the Lynx padded their 11-point halftime lead.
On Saturday at KeyArena, the unexpected open shots Seattle did have early, it missed. The Storm was behind 21-14 at the end of the first quarter. Tanisha Wright was the most tense, missing three shots at the rim to open the game that could have given Seattle a 9-2 lead.
Instead the Storm was down 19-12 before Wright scored her first field goal, a driving layin with 51 seconds left in the first quarter.
“I was not focusing on finishing,” she said.
Wright continued to go to the hoop, though. She scored 13 points in the last 5:07 of the second quarter and had 17 at the half as the Storm trailed 40-33 at the break.
Wright finished with a season-high 22 points, making all 10 of her free-throw attempts, and had eight rebounds.
But Thompson’s patented three-pointers missed, along with most of those put up by second-year forward Shekinna Stricklen. Seattle shot 2 of 16 from three-point range overall.
“Our effort on Tina was really impressive,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Tanisha put the team on her back, especially in the first half.”
Minnesota’s magic is its depth.
Rebekkah Brunson (19 points) and Seimone Augustus (14 points) more than offset Moore’s below-average performance.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JaydaEvans.