Well, now we have a series.
After the Lynx tied the best-of-five WNBA finals at one game each with a 77-71 victory over Indiana at Target Center on Tuesday, there were radically different takes on the game.
To the Lynx it was a physical, aggressive game, just the sort you’d expect from a team with its back against the wall.
“The refs did a great job tonight,” Seimone Augustus observed. “They didn’t call anything. They let us play, and that’s what playoff basketball is all about.”
To the Fever? Well, let’s just say first-year coach Stephanie White saw things differently.
“I guess, first and foremost, I learned a valuable lesson today,” she said. “I learned that it pays to go public with comments about officials. Who would have known that?”
That was a reference to Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve’s comments Monday, saying guard Lindsay Whalen was no longer getting the calls she deserved.
“This game was a bloodbath,” White said. “I’ve never seen a player of Tamika Catchings’ caliber get so disrespected in my life. Never. And to me that’s a travesty.”
White’s issue? Catchings (11 points), Indiana’s heart and soul, being hampered with foul trouble. She picked up her fourth with 6 minutes, 7 seconds left in the third quarter after scoring seven points in 4 minutes as the Fever lead grew to nine. Two minutes later Catchings was called for a block. She sat, and the Lynx were off. They finished the quarter on a 20-7 run to go up four entering the fourth.
So was it physical, or was it a bloodbath?
Well, Lynx center Sylvia Fowles, magnificent again with 21 points and nine rebounds, had to sit for a while with a bloody lip. Then there was Fever guard Shenise Johnson. With 4:06 left in the game and the Lynx up four, she was flattened by a Rebekkah Brunson screen and left the game. Johnson was called for a technical for slapping the scorers’ table.
Ultimately it was the Lynx being aggressive and doing what it took to win. Fowles dominated early. Moore, perhaps overhyped up for the game, stumbled in a five-point first half that Reeve called awful. But in the second half: 14 points, four steals, two blocks.
“We want to do what we want to do,” Moore said. “If that’s means being physical, it means being physical.’’
And Reeve went small in the second half, using Anna Cruz and Renee Montgomery at guards and Augustus (11 points) at small forward. That lineup forced the Fever into 14 second-half turnovers — seven in the fourth quarter — as the Lynx held on for the victory. Briann January, who scored a team-high 17 points for Indiana, had only six in the second half, two in the fourth quarter.
“It changed everything,” Reeve said of Cruz and Montgomery.
White disagreed: “Besides fouling us, is that what you mean?” she said when asked how the Lynx had forced those second-half turnovers. “We stopped attacking, pretty much like Lindsay Whalen, because we weren’t getting calls.’’
So now we’re set for a Game 3 after the game Tuesday, which hearkened back to 2012, when Reeve’s thrown sports coat became a local legend.
Interestingly, Catchings seemed more upset with herself than the calls.
“Look at the history of basketball, some calls go the way you want them and some go the way you don’t want them,” she said.
But the coaches?
“So one up for the veteran [coach] and a lesson learned for the rookie,” White said.
Said Reeve: “I cannot comment on officiating.” Then she looked at Renee Brown, WNBA director of basketball operations. “How’s that Renee? That’s the first time in my life, I think, I’ve done that.’’