The stage was set at the KeyArena in Seattle, as prized 2016 #1 draft pick center, Breanna Stewart made her home debut for the Seattle Storm on Sunday night.
However, the visiting team, the current reigning WNBA champion, the Minnesota Lynx (3-0) stole the show, beating the Storm (1-2) 78-71, taking advantage of the young and rebuilding team.
Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve, while accepting of the victory, didn't take Seattle light-heartedly, and was thankful to squeeze out a road win.
"It's what we expected in a home opener. Seattle is one of the more difficult places to come to on a home opener," Reeve said. "I thought there were times when both teams played well - great runs back and forth."
Minnesota started the game with a 14-8 lead, attacking Seattle with their inside presence of Rebekkah Brunson and Sylvia Fowles. The Storm didn't back down, though, as Alysha Clark and Stewart led the team on a 14-0 run to end the first quarter, giving Seattle a 24-19 lead.
In the second quarter, Minnesota got back to work, building up a quick 6-0 lead to put the Lynx back up 25-24. Seattle answered with five points, which inspired the Lynx to step up their game.
With 6:21 to go, Minnesota put up eight points in 52 seconds, capped off by a Seimone Augustus three-pointer. Seattle climbed back within three with 31 seconds to go, after a Stewart layup, but Brunson would make a layup of her own to give Minnesota a 46-41 halftime lead.
Stewart scored all 14 of her points in the first half to go along with seven rebounds, which prompted Storm head coach Jenny Boucek to speak in awe of how versatile the rookie is.
"It's been fun watching Stewie, she goes from Candace Parker, to Brittney Griner, to now Fowles and Rebekkah Brunson, and at one point she was on Maya Moore when they went small," Boucek said.
"Just to see her really attacking every challenge, excited about every challenge. Whether it's individual or a team challenge you're seeing why she's so great, and why she will be so great."
Maya Moore started things off for Minnesota in the third, making a quick jumper to put Minnesota up seven, After a Jewell Loyd jumper for Seattle at the nine-minute mark, neither team scored for nearly seven full minutes.
A layup from Renee Montgomery ended the silence, giving the Lynx a 50-43 lead. Consecutive three-pointers by Loyd and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis put Seattle back within one, and eventually the Storm ended at a 54-51 deficit.
In the fourth quarter, Seattle cut the lead within one twice in the first three minutes before Minnesota started applying the pressure. The difference maker ended up being a layup by Fowles with 3:55 to go, to put the Lynx up 69-65; they never looked back. Augustus made two free throws with 12 seconds to go to seal the deal for the visitors.
Moore led Minnesota with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting and nine rebounds. Fowles had 15 points, and eight rebounds, and Lindsay Whalen finished with 14 points and three assists. Clark led the way for Seattle, scoring 20 points, while Stewart finished the game with her second career double-double, scoring 14 points and pulling down 13 rebounds.
Moore praised how her team held it together in the closing minutes, and thinks that the team, while it may have some new pieces, are starting to fit together very well.
"Every day, I think this group wants to take advantage of the time that we have together. There are several staple players that have been here for a while now, but we have a lot of new players," Moore said, "The other half of our team is new and haven't been part of a full season with the Lynx, so they're hungry to get it right, to get it together with those of us who have been here for a while. We want to make sure we are clicking on all cylinders.
"Today wasn't a perfect game for us, and we know it's going to happen when you're on the road, but we fought through it, we stayed together. That's the main thing with us - making sure we're communicating and staying together. We can get over a lot of humps that way."
While Minnesota did take the win on Seattle's home court, the Storm can hold their heads up high knowing that they held the Lynx to a season-low 78 points. Before Sunday's game, the Lynx had been averaging over 96 points a game.
Minnesota takes the court next on Wednesday night, going head-to-head against their rivals, the Phoenix Mercury. Seattle gets a few days to rest before taking on the visiting Washington Mystics at home on Thursday.