If the Seattle Storm were going to lose in KeyArena, surely it would come on some crazy last-second shot or some fluky bounce of the ball.
The defending WNBA champions wouldn’t find themselves thrashed and thoroughly outplayed in every aspect of the game. No way would their home streak end like that.
But it did.
The Storm spotted the Minnesota Lynx the game’s first 22 points and never fully recovered in an 81-74 loss before 6,291 fans at KeyArena.
“We dug ourselves a huge hole and that was probably the worst quarter of basketball that I’ve seen since I have been in this franchise,” point guard Sue Bird said.
“I don’t know what to say, it was embarrassing. There are a lot of adjectives that I could use right now to explain how I am feeling, I will keep them to myself.”
The game could be seen as a measuring stick for the young Lynx. The league’s general managers picked Minnesota to be the most improved team in the 2011 season. On Thursday night, the Lynx simply played like the best team in the WNBA.
Bird, known for her competitiveness, said maybe the Storm needed this.
“Sometime you need games like this, you need wake-up calls, you need reminders as to how hard it is to win in this league,” she said. “Sometimes you need a loss and sometimes those losses can be the biggest wins of the year, let’s hope that is the case here.”
The tone was set for the game on the opening tip when Maya Moore outhustled the Storm to the ball and drove past defenders to give the Lynx a 2-0 lead.
“I think the initial jump-ball sort of set the tone for the game, we got outhustled there,” Storm head coach Brian Agler said.
The Storm missed their first nine shots, the Lynx made their first four. The Storm shot 20 percent in the first quarter, the Lynx shot 65 percent. All game statistics pointed to Lynx dominance.
The Lynx opened the game on a 22-0 run and Storm head coach Brian Agler had to use two timeouts to try and calm his team down, but to no avail.
Minnesota forward Rebekkah Brunson made five of her six shots in the first quarter and scored 11 points and the Lynx had a commanding 28-8 lead.
The second quarter for the Storm was better, but not much. The Lynx outscored the Storm 22-16 in the second quarter and took a 50-24 lead into halftime.
KeyArena had never been so quiet.
In the second half, the Storm gave their fans something to cheer about.
Seattle won the third quarter — outscoring the Lynx 15-14. But the Storm still trailed 64-39 going into the final period.
Reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player Lauren Jackson had just two points on 1-for-7 shooting after three quarters.
“I have a lot of trust in Lauren. Why she had the game that she did? I think it is just one of those situations that you never quite know. She’ll get back on track,” Agler said.
It was pretty evident that the 23-game home winning streak was going to come to an end. But in the fourth quarter, the Storm gave fans one more reason to believe as they had done so many times along the way.
Five minutes into the third quarter, the Storm had used an 18-5 run to cut the Lynx lead to 69-57. The Storm had gotten within striking distance.
The arena came to life. Fans seemed to question if it was really over cheering louder and louder after every Seattle point.
Could the Storm pull out one more?
So many times during the Storm’s streak at home, Bird has hit big shots, even game-winners. She did all of that in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points in the quarter to finish with a game-high 24 points. Bird made six of her 10 field goals in the quarter and shot 4-for-7 from 3-point-range.
Jackson even came to life, scoring seven points in the quarter to finish with nine for the game. The Storm cut the lead to 75-69 with just under 30 seconds to play.
But time ran out on the Storm and ran out on the streak.
Brunson led the Lynx with 22 points and 14 rebounds. No. 1 overall draft-pick, Maya Moore, in her first game in Seattle as a professional scored 14 points on 7-for-10 from the field. All five Minnesota starters scored in double figures.
Seattle outscored Minnesota 35-17 in the final period, but the game was lost in the first quarter.
“The first quarter is obviously what troubles us. I knew that we were going to be able to cut it down and my hope was at the beginning of the fourth quarter if we could get it to eight or nine with five minutes. For a while, we just couldn’t break that 12 area. We finally did, but time just ran out. Obviously, it wasn’t about what happened in the fourth quarter. You can’t spot a team 20 points, or even more at one point and expect to win,” Bird said.
The Storm have plenty of time to rebound from Thursday’s loss. The Lynx, however, might have just proven that they are one of the elite teams in the WNBA.
“Minnesota is a really good team. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them in the postseason,” forward Swin Cash said.
Agler said it will be interesting to see how his team responds.
“I think it will be real interesting how we respond,” Agler said. “We have good character in that locker room.”
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow his blog online at www.heraldnet.com/storm and follow him on twitter @aaronlommers
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