The Lynx hoped this time it would be different.
They thought a strikingly different rotation, a different starting backcourt and a recently effective offense would allow them to keep pace with Seattle.
The Lynx lost by 24 to the Storm in the second game of the season. Sunday at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., they lost 103-88. Seattle’s swarming defense forced the Lynx into 26 turnovers — the most in coach Cheryl Reeve’s 11-year era — resulting in 28 points. Seattle’s ball movement — and movement without the ball — at times made the Lynx look like spectators.
Speaking of which, by the time it was over Reeve had seen enough.
“Our offense,” Reeve said, when asked what had allowed the Storm’s offense to be so dominant. “Our offense and then our total disregard for our principles of what our defense is. And this is not the first game. This has been brewing. Think how many times we give up 50 points in a half. This defensive team isn’t good enough to beat good teams. Facts.”
The Lynx offense was good enough to cover up some of the defensive difficulties during the three-game winning streak that ended Sunday. But this was the second straight game an opponent scored 40 points in the paint. Seattle had four starters and five players score between 12 and 19 points. Natasha Howard scored 19, making eight of 12 shots. Breanna Stewart scored 18, Jewell Loyd 16.
Of the 11 Lynx players who got in the game, only Erica McCall didn’t have a turnover.
“We know they’re a long team,’’ said Crystal Dangerfield, who had 13 points. “We kept trying to make the same play over and over. When we see something not working we need to go away from that.”
The return from a calf injury by center Sylvia Fowles would bolster the defense, but Reeve said any return, if it happens, wouldn’t come before the playoffs. The Lynx (13-6) are now just one game ahead of surging Phoenix for a top-four finish, with three games left in the regular season.
Down 13 in the second quarter, the Lynx finished the half on an 8-2 run that included Odyssey Sims’ 43-foot buzzer-beating three. Minnesota pulled within four points twice early in the third, the second time on two Damiris Dantas free throws. But the first-place Storm (16-3) finished the quarter on a 32-15 run. The lead grew to as many as 21 early in the fourth.
Dantas had 22 points, Sims 14.
“We just didn’t do our schemes, what the game plan was,’’ Napheesa Collier said. “We pretty much ignored it as a team. So I know Coach is pretty frustrated with that.’’
Reeve seemed so, in postgame comments that lasted just 76 seconds. But she made her point. Days off between games will end.
“We’ll start practicing on our off days,’’ she said. “Because without defense, we’re going nowhere. Like, nowhere. One hundred and three points! I mean it’s a really good basketball team over there, but this was embarrassing today.’’
Collier added that the Storm had yet to see the Lynx’s best.
“I think we beat ourselves a lot of the time tonight,” she said.
The Star Tribune is not traveling to Florida for NBA and WNBA coverage. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.