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Preview: Minnesota Lynx try to get on the board against Seattle Storm

Slow starts have been a rare occurrence for the Minnesota Lynx in recent years, but they’re currently sitting at 0-2 as they host the defending champion Seattle Storm.

Minnesota Lynx v New York Liberty
Sylvia Fowles has been excellent through two games for Minnesota, but the rest of the Lynx have been a mixed bag.
Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx (0-2) will look to pick up their first victory of the 2021 WNBA season on Thursday when they welcome the defending champion Seattle Storm (1-1) to Minneapolis. The game will be televised on NBA TV as well as WNBA League Pass.

The Lynx have historically been one of the WNBA’s faster-starting teams — under head coach Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota had never previously dropped its first two games of any season — but 2021 hasn’t been as kind. After a close opening-night loss to the Phoenix Mercury, the Lynx dropped their next game to the New York Liberty, looking like a team still playing preseason basketball and starting 0-2 for the first time during Reeve’s tenure.

While the absence of 2020 All-WNBA forward Napheesa Collier — who is still in the WNBA’s health and safety protocol after her overseas season in France kept her from joining the Lynx on time — has hurt Minnesota, the team’s problems run deeper than that. The Lynx have struggled to find consistent offense, posting an effective field goal percentage of just 41.8 percent through two games, and prized free agency acquisitions Aerial Powers and Kayla McBride haven’t yet contributed at the level expected of them.

Until Collier returns and Minnesota’s outside shooting comes around, the team will have to lean on Sylvia Fowles, who is currently averaging 18.5 points and 11 rebounds per contest. The Lynx would ideally like to keep the 35-year old center’s minutes below 30, but that’s been a challenge thus far with backup Natalia Achonwa dealing with an injured knee.

WNBA Finals - Game Two
Storm center Mercedes Russell is expected to play her first minutes of 2021 on Thursday, and it couldn’t come at a better time for Seattle.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Things won’t get any easier for Fowles and the Lynx on Thursday. While the Storm have already been on both sides of blowouts (a 97-83 win and a 96-80 loss) against Las Vegas, they’re a deeper and more cohesive team than Minnesota at this juncture. With Mercedes Russell back in the lineup and Ezi Magbegor showing great promise early in her second WNBA season, Seattle has plenty of frontcourt depth to throw at Fowles, and without Collier’s defense, the Lynx may struggle even more than usual against multi-talented Storm forward Breanna Stewart.

Game information

Seattle Storm (1-1) vs. Minnesota Lynx (0-2)

When: Thursday, May 20 at 8 p.m. ET

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN

How to watch: NBA TV, JOEtv, WNBA League Pass

Storm injury report: Katie Lou Samuelson (not with team; USA 3x3 basketball commitment)

Lynx injury report: Napheesa Collier (out; health/safety protocol), Natalie Achonwa (doubtful; knee), Rennia Davis (out; foot)

Keys to the matchup: Even if the Lynx can establish Fowles early and often, they’ll have a hard time winning if they don’t make their 3-point shots. Minnesota is shooting just 20.5 percent on threes; against a defense as aggressive as Seattle’s, now would be a good time for the Lynx to break out of their shooting slump. They’ll have plenty of open looks if they’re patient with their ball movement.