Defending champion Minnesota appears to be finally getting over the preseason trade of forward Natasha Howard to the Seattle Storm after her two-year stint with the Lynx.
Minnesota (7-6) enters Tuesday’s game against the visiting Storm (10-4) on a four-game winning streak. Before the game at the Target Center, Howard will be presented her 2017 WNBA championship ring that she earned with the Lynx last year.
The trade affected the Lynx’s depth, contributing to their 3-6 start. Howard played in all 34 games the past two seasons with Minnesota, helping the Lynx to a pair of trips to the WNBA Finals. She started once and averaged 4.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 11.7 minutes in 2017.
Minnesota traded Howard to Seattle for a 2018 second-round choice and the rights to swap the team’s 2019 first-round selections. The Lynx chose center Ji-Su Park in the second round before trading her in a deal with Las Vegas for a 2019 second-round selection and former Gonzaga player Jill Barta, who was released before the season.
Complementing Seattle’s standout players Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd, Howard is averaging 14.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 26.8 minutes. All those marks are career-highs.
“I’m just being me,” Howard told the Seattle Times. “Being myself, getting out of my shell a little bit and embracing what I have that God gave me.
“It’s just being comfortable with myself and my teammates have confidence in me. … I always told myself I could do more if I played more. I’ve always believed that.”
The Lynx are coming off an 88-73 win over host Las Vegas on Sunday. Maya Moore, a guard who was named the WNBA player of the week Monday, scored 23 points and forward Sylvia Fowles added 20 points and 10 rebounds.
Moore, who has been selected the player of the week 18 times in her career, has averaged 21.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in the four-game winning streak.
“She’s been far more assertive, and she’s moving great without the ball,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
Minnesota’s defense is another reason for the Lynx’s surge of late. Veteran forward Rebekkah Brunson held Las Vegas rookie sensation A’ja Wilson to a season-low 10 points and nine shots.
Reeve said she is sticking to a minutes plan for Brunson, who is struggling from sore knees. That is a concern if Fowles gets in foul trouble.