SEATTLE — After losing all six meetings to Minnesota a year ago, including getting swept out of the WNBA playoffs in the first round, the Seattle Storm were fed up.
Earlier this season, the Storm used an inspired defensive effort to hand the Lynx their first loss after Minnesotta opened the season with seven consecutive victories.
Friday night, they did it again, improving to 2-0 against the Lynx this season with an 81-71 victory at KeyArena.
“We were tired of losing to them,” forward Camille Little said in a postgame interview in front of the home crowd of 6,547.
The 62 points the Lynx scored against Seattle on June 13 and the 71 they scored on Friday are their two lowest point totals of the season.
“I think our coaches do a great job of preparing us and we played really hard tonight,” Little said.
It’s no secret that defense has been the Storm’s calling card under head coach Brian Agler — so much so that even with a dominant defensive performance, it wasn’t good enough for Little.
“We didn’t (play good defense) in the fourth quarter, to be honest,” Little said. “There were some times in the fourth quarter where (point guard) Lindsay (Whalen) just got to the basket a couple times in a row. We’ve got to get stops down the stretch.
“We’ve got to make sure we play 40 minutes of good defense and we didn’t, we probably played about 35.”
It was good enough for the Storm to get a win.
Well, that and a career-high 31 points from Little.
“I don’t play for that,” Little said of her point total. “We won tonight. It’s not going to say Camille Little won, it’s says the Seattle Storm won. That’s what’s important to me.
“I’m glad that defensively we were in their space the whole night. That made it tough for them to score and that was the outcome of the game. It wasn’t just me, it was our defense.”
Little was a model of efficiency, shooting 11-for-15 from the field and 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.
Asked how she was able to score at such a high clip, her answer was simple.
“I just shot when Birdie (Sue Bird) gave me the ball,” she said with a laugh.
Many of Bird’s game-high nine assists were dished to Little in the high pick-and-roll that seems to work so well for the Storm.
Despite playing one of, if not the best, games of her career, Little was modest about her performance.
Her coach was not.
“She had an amazing night, she really did,” Agler said. “I was real happy for her. She played well on both ends of the floor. She was really engaged. In a lot of ways, she carried us through.”
Little wasn’t the only player to have a career-game on the offensive end. Forward Jenna O’Hea finished with a career-high five 3-pointers, shooting 5-for-6 from long range and finishing with 15 points.
“She can shoot the basketball,” Agler said. “We like to get her open looks.”
The Lynx held a lead for just 29 seconds the whole game. Their first lead of 13-12 came with 2:42 to play in the first quarter and they held it for just 13 seconds. Their only other lead came with 1:57 to play in the third quarter and it last just three seconds more. Seattle answered Minnesota taking its second lead with a 7-0 run that put momentum on the Storm’s side for the remainder of the game.
Minnesota made a push in the final quarter, but was unable to overcome Little and the Storm. The Lynx got to within three with 2:59 to play in the game, but that was as close as they would get.
Though her 31 points are what stands out in the box score, Little came up with two offensive rebounds after the Lynx got to within six that took over a minute of the game clock.
“Those (rebounds) are probably, in a way, bigger than the points,” Bird said. “Camille’s 31 is obviously a significant contribution. You definitely can’t ignore that. Down the stretch everyone, including Camille, made other plays as well.”
After the second offensive rebound the Storm got a layup from Noelle Quinn to extend their lead back to eight.
Just as big as Quinn’s basket was the time that ticked off the clock before it.
“We needed time,” Agler said. “They started going to that mid-pick-and-roll and it was giving us problems. It gave us time off the clock. The clock was on our side and that gave us more of an advantage there. They were making a good run.”
Minnesota’s Maya Moore, the league’s leading scorer, finished with 20 points and shot 8-for-13 from the field. The rest of the Lynx shot just 19-for-55 collectively.
The Storm and Lynx meet for a second time in three days on Sunday in Minneapolis for the second game of a home-and-home series.
“It’s going to be tough in there,” Little said. “I’m sure they’re (ticked) right now. I’m sure they’re getting cursed out. They’re going to be ready to play and we have to, too.”
Aaron Lommers cover the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.