Speaking after the Seattle Storm’s overtime loss Aug. 15 to the Chicago Sky, coach Noelle Quinn’s goals for the team’s upcoming road trip were simple.
“We want to leave 3-2,” she said.
But as the buzzer sounded Tuesday, the Storm was on the wrong side of the line, dropping its game to the Minnesota Lynx 76-70. Seattle spent most of the game chasing as a historic performance from Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles, who dominated almost every facet of the game, proved too much to overcome.
The defeat ended Seattle’s 11-game win streak against Minnesota and moved the Lynx to two games back of the Storm in the Western Conference standings. It also condemned Seattle to a losing road trip, with the team going 2-3 in the first five games since the WNBA restart.
“We wanted to finish out this road trip with more wins than losses,” Quinn said. “(Fowles) was a load today. From the jump, they established their inside presence and we dug ourselves in a hole in that first (quarter) and played pretty even for the rest of the game but couldn’t get over the hump.”
Despite clinching a playoff berth for the fourth consecutive season following a win Sunday against the Washington Mystics, the Storm needs to focus on the rest of the season as the No. 1 seed in each conference earns an automatic spot in the semifinals.
The Storm’s offense didn’t get off to the best start. Only three players found themselves on the scoreboard in the first quarter, with no Seattle player managing more than five points.
While Seattle’s Olympians struggled to find their shot, Minnesota’s had no such problems. Fowles scored nine points in the first quarter, with fellow gold medalist Napheesa Collier adding seven, outsourcing the entire Storm roster by themselves. Quinn thinks the fatigue from traveling played a factor in Seattle’s slow start.
Seattle chipped into the Minnesota lead in the second quarter. Jewell Loyd poured in seven points after being held scoreless in the first, helping the Storm outscore the Lynx 19-15. However, the Storm’s comeback was halted by Fowles. The four-time gold medalist was simply unstoppable in the first half, reaching the break with 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting, 13 rebounds, an assist, three steals and two blocks.
“Sylvia Fowles is one of the best centers to have ever played our game,” Quinn said. “You throw traps at her, you ask our players to be aggressive defenders and push her out, but you’re not moving her. She’s a load and she’s very tough. We caught her on a bad night for us, obviously a great night for her.”
The second half proved to be kinder to Seattle. A 12-6 run to start the third quarter brought the Storm within one point, but the Lynx responded, once again through Fowles. Seattle tried to deny the entry pass to the star center and then foul her before she could shoot, but the Minnesota big simply hit her free throws to increase the Lynx lead and put Storm center Mercedes Russell in foul trouble.
“I could have done a better job trapping (Fowles) early in the post, getting there and doubling her earlier,” Storm forward Breanna Stewart said.
Seattle’s comeback continued in the fourth, keeping pace with Minnesota for most of the fourth quarter. Ezi Magbegor’s defense on Fowles — holding her to just two points in the fourth quarter — helped the Storm stay in the game, but some clutch threes from Collier and Damiris Dantas secured the win for the Lynx.
Stewart led all Seattle scorers with 18 points on 6 of 23 shooting from the floor. She also had 16 rebounds. Loyd added 15 points on 42.9% shooting, including 50% from three-point range, and Bird scored in double digits as well, dropping 10 points and dishing seven assists in what was a good, if inefficient, night for the Storm’s Big Three.
It was the bench though that proved the most effective. Epiphanny Prince, Magbegor and Jordin Canada lead the team in plus-minus and combined for 14 points, five assists and 11 rebounds.
Even with individual standout performances, the team as a whole struggled on offense. Seattle shot 37.8% from the field and 33.3% from three-point range. It also took just seven free throws compared to Minnesota’s 16.
“Sometimes, you have off nights,” Bird said. “We got good enough shots, we just didn’t make them.
Fowles finished the game with 29 points on 10 of 17 shooting. Her 20 rebounds are the most by an opponent against the Storm in franchise history, beating the 19 grabbed by Teaira McCowan in 2019. Fowles is just the fourth player in WNBA history to score at least 25 points and grab 20 rebounds in a single game.
The Storm will try to bounce back from the loss when they return home from their long road trip to welcome the Chicago Sky at 7 p.m. Friday.
“I think this road trip was a grind, and we just have to refresh, regroup and take care of business,” Quinn said.