Seconds into the Lynx's game at Seattle on Wednesday night, the Storm's Gabby Williams hit a three-pointer. Seconds later, teammate Sue Bird did the same. Then Tina Charles did it. And then, only 128 seconds into the game, Breanna Stewart hit yet another three to put the Storm up 12 before the Lynx had made a shot.
Talk about setting a tone.
Pushing the pace from the tip and defending the rhythm out of the Lynx offense for much of the game, the Storm (20-12) led from start to finish in a 89-77 victory.
It ended the Lynx's two-game winning streak, sending them home after a 2-1 road trip that left them 12-20 and in 11th place in the WNBA. They are 1½ games out of a playoff spot with four regular-season games to play.
Seattle (20-12) moved into a tie with Washington for fourth place.
"It was unfortunate, the early start," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "We didn't hit shots, and they came down and hit threes right away. We said, 'Hang in there. We've seen this, they get off to a big start, and you can claw your way back in.' We could never get anything going with that first group, not anything consistent."
No question about that. Center Sylvia Fowles (12 points) was the only Lynx starter in double figures. The Storm shot 50% overall and made 11 of 25 threes. They scored in the paint (35 points) and from behind the arc (33 points). And the Storm took advantage of offensive dysfunction by the Lynx starters to amass a 30-8 edge on fast-break points.
Seattle was up 29 points with less than two minutes left in the third quarter before an 18-4 surge by the Lynx bench brought Minnesota within 15 on Nikolina Milic's three-point play with just over six minutes left.
But the Lynx never really made it a game; Rachel Banham's three in the closing seconds made the final margin the same 12 points the Storm had scored seconds into the first quarter.
But this game wasn't as close as that 12-point difference suggests.
"We played one of our worst games so far,'' said Milic, who led the Lynx with 13 points. She and Lindsay Allen (11) were both in double figures off the bench. "We were not disciplined. Everything we talked about in the locker room, we didn't get done. They scored on us at every level. We didn't stop their fast break.''
The problem was mainly with the starters, who were outscored 80-38 by the Storm starters. Stewart, the league's leading scorer, had 33 points on 13-for-20 shooting. Jewell Loyd (17), Williams (13) and Bird (13) were also in double figures.
It was a 39-10 edge in bench points that made the final score as close as it was.
Reeve was unhappy with her team's difficulty in getting Fowles the ball where she wasn't double-teamed.
"We didn't have any chemistry in that first group in regards to the offense,'' Reeve said. "The game got away from that first group for the better part of the game."
Now there are only four games left. The Lynx will head home Thursday and prepare for Sunday's home game against Atlanta, currently tied for the final playoff spot. After that the Lynx play at Phoenix, play host to the Storm and then finish the season at Connecticut.
"We tried to be better in the second half, but it was too late," Milic said. "We need to start the game better. We were off as a team. No explanation. We just played bad as a team. We need to turn the page, go back home and try to be better."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.