Seattle earns 81-72 victory and is on the verge of winning the regular-season title for the first time since 2010.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Natasha Howard scored 21 points, Breanna Stewart had 17 points and a season-high 17 rebounds and the Seattle Storm beat the Minnesota Lynx 81-72 on Sunday night.

Seattle maintained its two-game lead over second-place Atlanta and reduced its magic number for the top seed in the playoffs to one. Seattle and Atlanta each have two games remaining.

Stewart scored eight points, including a pair of three-pointers, during an 11-0 run that gave the Storm (24-8) a 73-58 lead with 4:54 left.


New York Liberty @ Storm, 7 p.m., JOEtv

Jewell Loyd had 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Storm.

Sylvia Fowles had 28 points and 13 rebounds for the Lynx (17-14). They tied it twice in the first quarter and kept the deficit within single digits most of the way. Minnesota closed to 62-58 early in the fourth quarter before the Storm pulled away for good.

Seattle turned a four-point (62-58) lead into a 15-point (73-58) cushion in less than two minutes via a 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter. The Storm nailed three three-pointers during that stretch, including two from Stewart, who accounted for eight of the 11 points in the run.

Storm coach Dan Hughes thought the way his team responded out of the timeout when the Lynx cut the lead to four was key in the victory.

“We came out and got really good looks from three and stepped up and made them and we got separation,” Hughes said. “Coming out of that timeout, our execution and ability to get open looks was just excellent.”

Seattle held Minnesota to 30 points in the first half, matching a season-low for opponent first-half scoring, also keeping Indiana to 30 points in the first half on June 22.

After playing nine of its last 10 games on the road, the Storm returns home for the final two games of the regular season, starting with New York on Friday at 7 p.m.

Sunday marked the first time since her WNBA debut that Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen didn’t start a game in which she appeared. She came off the bench for the Connecticut Sun in her league debut back on May 22, 2004, and had started 475 straight games since

Storm guard Sue Bird recorded four assists. She has 215 assists on the season, needing six to match her career-best (221) for a season and 21 to match the WNBA record (236) held by Ticha Penicheiro.