MINNEAPOLIS — Always known as a superb passer and ball-handler, Lindsay Whalen showed she can shoot and score as well.
Whalen scored 22 points on 11-for-20 shooting from the field, Seimone Augustus added 18 points and the Minnesota Lynx beat the Seattle Storm 90-72 Sunday night for their 18th straight home win.
“I was kind of surprised I took 20 shots,” said Whalen, who also had seven assists and five rebounds. “They were kind of clogging in so I got a couple draw and kicks. People were finding me up the court so I tried to be aggressive and help any way I could.”
Defenders can no longer cut under screens or play off of Whalen and give her an open jump shot like they might have been able to in the past. She’s averaging a career-high 16 points and shooting 49 percent this season.
“She’s always been good as a floor leader and court general, that’s something that she’s known for,” 17th-year veteran Seattle forward Tina Thompson said. “I think what’s gotten extremely better is her offense and just how effective and efficient she is. That mid-range game has gotten a lot better for her and it makes her more of a weapon.”
Rebekkah Brunson had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Maya Moore scored 16 points as Minnesota (16-3) extended its overall winning streak to nine games.
Minnesota’s home win streak, dating back to last season, is tied with the 2010-11 Storm teams for the third longest streak in WNBA history. Los Angeles won a record 28 straight at home from 2000-02 and 19 in a row from 2012-13.
Shekinna Stricklen led Seattle (8-11) with 24 points, Thompson scored 12 and Tanisha Wright had 10.
The Storm cut a 31-point second-half deficit to 13 midway through the fourth quarter before the Lynx regained control down the stretch.
Minnesota didn’t score for the game’s first 2 minutes and it looked like Seattle’s slow-it-down and clog-the-lane defensive strategy was working.
Then, the Storm couldn’t hang onto the ball.
Minnesota forced 10 first quarter turnovers that led to 15 points and a 24-10 lead after the first quarter.
“Ten first quarter turnovers against a sixth-grade youth team is bad,” Thompson said. “Especially against Minnesota, you’re not going to get any positive things from that. Just any team in the WNBA. Ten turnovers in a quarter is too many.”
The Lynx led 46-32 at halftime and came out hot in the third quarter to build a 31-point advantage.
“We wanted to play the game at our temp, not their tempo,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I thought that set the tone for us, to get some flow to what we were doing and get as many possessions as we could.”
But the late run Seattle made was in the back of Minnesota’s mind after the game. When a team is rolling like the Lynx are right now, sometimes winning by 18 points isn’t quite enough.
“When you’re up like that, it’s not the time to relax,” Brunson said. “We need to keep playing. That’s a message that we’re trying to get to our young players out there.”
Seattle is currently fourth in the Western conference, 4½ games behind second-place Los Angeles and eight games back of Minnesota. Thompson knows her team will need to play better if it wants to make the playoffs.
“I feel like we can do better,” she said. “Not to take anything away from Minnesota, but I just think our intensity at times and just kind of how we were attacking their offense and getting away from our game plan at times put us in a position that we weren’t effective.”