The story of the Seattle Storm's 65-62 win over the Minnesota Lynx tonight can almost be told by following the turnovers.
Through three quarters, the Storm were out-played by the visiting Lynx to the tune of seven points after giving up 15 points off of 16 turnovers. In the final period, it was the Lynx who undermined their normally high-powered offense with six turnovers of their own to give the Storm an opening.
The Storm seized the moment and handed the Lynx their first loss of the 2014 season.
"It's a win for us, is all I'm worried about," said Storm forward Camille Little, who had 12 points and 4 steals. "We needed it. Whoever would have come in here tonight we were going to play hard against regardless. We needed a win. We've been having some rough nights, some close games we didn't close, and we were really focused on trying to close this game, and I'm glad we did."
While Minnesota's offense sputtered in the fourth, Seattle didn't turn the ball over once in the fourth quarter and capitalized on those Lynx mistakes with nine points off turnovers. After playing a supporting role for most of the game, Tanisha Wright came alive in the fourth with 9 of her game-high tying 13 points - including a huge jumper to put her team up by four with 1:12 left - to lead the Storm to their third win of the season and a statement win against the league's last undefeated team of the season.
Crystal Langhorne shared game-high scoring honors with 13 points of her own along with 8 rebounds, but it's very interesting that the Storm's run came without her: Langhorne didn't play a minute in the fourth quarter after the Storm relied heavily on pick and rolls with her and Sue Bird early in the game. Similarly, after Bird recorded a game-high 10 assists through three quarters - along with five turnovers - she didn't play in the fourth. Yet with the lineup of Temeka Johnson-Tanisha Wright-Noelle Quinn-Nicole Powell-Camille Little clicking, Storm coach Brian Agler chose to ride them to victory for the final seven minutes of the game.
"This shows the kind of depth that we have, and we have a lot of trust in a lot of people on our team," Agler said after the game, according to a Seattle Storm release. "That group out there just played so instinctual defensively. We had certain things, certain concepts, we wanted to play through and with, but they did a lot of that on their own, just through their instincts. I thought they made a lot of good decisions."
That fourth quarter unit still only managed to shoot a meager 37.5% from the field in the fourth, but held the Lynx to just 30% shooting over the second half and without an assist in the fourth quarter to get a defensive win.
For the Lynx, stars Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore were held to just 12 points apiece - a team-high - including just four points apiece on a combined 4-for-11 shooting in the second half. Wright and Alysha Clark, respectively, deserve much of the credit for that as they both made Minnesota's wings work to even get the ball and contested most of the shots they did get off. As is usual with stars of their caliber, some of that was missing shots that they can normally make - the two combined to go 0-for-6 from the 3-point line on a night when the team went 1-for-13 from beyond the arc - but the Storm's individual and help defense deserves plenty of credit.
Poor second half shooting and fourth quarter turnovers were ultimately just too much for even the league's best to overcome.
"When there are only 12 teams and there's depth of talent, I don't think any of us think that anybody can't lose on any certain night," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, according to a Storm release. "We've obviously played well, won close games, but laid an egg tonight. In end game execution, we were awful. But again, give Seattle credit, they wanted to win possessions more than we did. That's a classic case - when you want it more and play hard, that trumps talent."
The loss is Minnesota's first since September 12, 2013 when they lost on the road to the Los Angeles Sparks. They still haven't lost at home since an August 16, 2013 loss to the Tulsa Shock. Considering that the Lynx are still playing short-handed, a loss had to come at some point and a road loss at KeyArena is certainly understandable but the Storm deserve all the credit for this one - from coaching decisions down to role players stepping up when the All-Stars took a seat.