Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve sat down, postgame, and smiled.
This is what she wanted, this kind of game. One that hung on every fourth-quarter possession. One that had more grit than gloss. One, frankly, that took everything her team had.
It was a high-drama teaching moment.
“It felt good to grind one out,” Reeve said after the Lynx had, finally, beaten Seattle after three times this season, a 74-69 victory Sunday at Target Center that hinged on some very big plays late. “Our team needs to understand this is how we should feel every night.”
Two days after a second consecutive loss in Seattle, with Seimone Augustus on the bench with her left knee bursitis acting up, with Seattle selling out to make sure Maya Moore didn’t beat it, the Lynx found a way.
Center Janel McCarville, who struggled both on defense and with her shot Friday in Seattle, hit nine of 16 shots, scored 22 points — her most ever in a Lynx uniform — and got perhaps her biggest rebound of the season late in the game on Damiris Dantas’ missed free throw.
Guard Monica Wright, who has slowly worked back from knee surgery, started in place of Augustus. But it was the way she finished that mattered. Switched onto Storm guard Sue Bird late in the game, Wright held Bird in check down the stretch as the Lynx (12-5) pulled out the win.
To McCarville, she had no choice.
“Seimone was out,” she said of Augustus, who missed her second game. “Maya had a good game, but not a Maya game. Somebody had to step up, and it just so happened to be my day. I tried to take full advantage.”
She wasn’t exactly alone. Moore had 14 points on 4-for-12 shooting, but she had eight rebounds, seven assists and four blocks. Lindsay Whalen shook off a cold night to hit a key baseline jumper with 1:14 left. Devereaux Peters came off the bench to score 12 points, with seven rebounds and four steals.
Bird had 21 for Seattle (7-11), which sank nine of 21 three-pointers. Jenna O’Hea had 14. Camille Little, who had 31 points Friday, was held to six, mostly by McCarville.
The Lynx led by as many as 14 in the second quarter, were up by 10 at the half and by nine early in the fourth.
Then Bird had seven points and three assists as the Storm came back to take a 63-62 lead on Angel Robinson’s jump shot with 3:46 left.
But then it was mainly the Lynx the rest of the way, with Minnesota finishing the game on a 12-6 run. Whalen was fouled and hit both free throws with 3 minutes left. After O’Hea’s miss, Dantas was fouled, hit the first free throw but missed the second. But McCarville got the rebound, was fouled and hit both free throws with 2:26 left to push the Lynx lead to four.
O’Hea hit a three-pointer, but Tan White hit a jumper. Robinson scored to make it a one-point game. After a Whalen miss in the lane, Robinson got the ball alone under the basket but missed, with the ball seeming to hang on the rim forever.
Whalen got the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws with 15.3 seconds left, and the Lynx were on their way to a much-needed gritty victory.
“We had to work,” Moore said. “We had to be disciplined, be patient at times. Tonight everybody had their moment, and we needed all of them.”
The moments included McCarville’s jump shots, Wright’s late defense and Whalen’s key baseline jumper. Friday the Lynx had only 12 assists and were outrebounded. On Sunday, Minnesota’s 11 offensive rebounds matched a season high and Minnesota recorded 22 assists, 15 by halftime.