The Seattle Storm may look different than when they won the WNBA Championship last year, but they opened their title defense in fine form on Wednesday, defeating the visiting Minnesota Lynx 84-74. While the game was close most of the way — the Storm led by six points at halftime and five after three quarters — the defending champs were able to secure an early lead and maintain it throughout.
The story of the game was the play of the Storm’s starting backcourt. Seattle fans might not be used to rooting for a playoff team not led by Sue Bird, but they’ll gladly take the performance Jordin Canada put forth: 26 points, 4 assists and a game-high +13. Canada combined with Jewell Loyd to score over half of the Storm’s points, which more than made up for Natasha Howard’s off night on offense: She attempted four field goals and made only one.
What made the play of Seattle’s backcourt that much more significant is the failure of Minnesota’s guards to respond. Canada and Loyd thoroughly outplayed Danielle Robinson and Odyssey Sims, who combined to score just a single point on the evening. The Lynx didn’t get much out of Lexie Brown and Seimone Augustus either. They combined for 5-of-20 shooting from the field.
Minnesota was kept in the game by the play of their star rookie Napheesa Collier, who put together the type of well-rounded stat line the league has quickly come to expect from her: 19 points (8-of-11 shooting), 10 rebounds and 2 steals. Damiris Dantas added 20 points and Sylvia Fowles chipped in 14, but it was ultimately not enough to cover up for the Lynx’s poor guard play.
The Storm will now advance to the second round where they’ll play the Los Angeles Sparks in another single-elimination round. Minnesota, on the other hand, enters an offseason full of questions, the biggest of which concerns Maya Moore and her future with the team.