Lynx loses clash with stubborn Storm

  • Article by: JAYSON JENKS , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 1, 2012 - 12:48 AM

Seattle prevailed in two overtimes and evened the playoff series, sending it back to Target Center for one game to settle matters.

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SEATTLE - Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and her team walked off the court looking like they were the victims of a robbery, and in a way, they were.

The Lynx had Sunday's game in the Western Conference semifinals against Seattle wrapped and sealed more than once in the second half, and yet they flew back to Minnesota with a sobering reality: They must win at home on Tuesday after blowing a 10-point second-half lead and losing 86-79.

"It was tough to watch," Reeve said. "It was really tough to watch. I had some very out-of-character players on the court tonight."

The numbers aren't pretty: Minnesota shot just 33 percent, including 19 percent from three-point range. And that's with the Lynx making 53 percent of their field goals in the first quarter.

If the Lynx can point to anything with certainty in this game, it's that their offense did nothing to help their steady defense.

The Lynx led throughout the second and third quarters, but they kept giving the Storm small windows to crawl through. Minnesota built a 10-point lead late in third quarter after getting 14 points from Seimone Augustus. It looked like the Lynx just needed to put the game on cruise control.

But the Storm is an experienced bunch and was playing for its season on Sunday. As Reeve said, "It's either win or go fishing."

Seattle took its first lead since the final minutes of the first quarter when Camille Little scored a layup with 3:09 left in the game. Minnesota rallied back behind four points from Rebekkah Brunson and held a three-point lead in the final seconds.

But Storm center Lauren Jackson, who didn't score until the third quarter, forced overtime with a three-pointer when the Lynx didn't switch on a screen.

"We tried to do what we needed to do on the defensive end," Brunson said. "But it was our offense that let us down tonight."

The Lynx then ground their way to another three-point lead in overtime thanks, in large part, to Brunson's presence inside. She scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, one of the few bright spots for the Lynx offensively.

But once again, Seattle clawed even. Tanisha Wright received a pass on the wing, faked a pass to a teammate and suddenly found herself wide open after Maya Moore and Brunson both bit on the pass fake.

Wright buried the three-pointer to force a second overtime. And once it reached that point, the Storm and its crowd made sure not to let another life go wasted.

"We made a bonehead play," Reeve said. "But, like I said, when you put so much pressure on your defense, you have to make those plays because we weren't scoring."

The Lynx could never fully shut the door on the Storm, despite plenty of chances to do so. It always remained cracked, just a little, even when the Lynx ended the first quarter on a 12-0 run and even when they built a 10-point lead late in the third.

Every time they looked on the brink of pulling the plug on Seattle's season, the Storm came roaring back.

"They clearly didn't want their season to end," Reeve said.

Augustus did her part to bury the Storm in the third quarter. She hit open jump shots, guarded jump shots and step-back three-pointers. She created plays in the moments when the Lynx couldn't get much going offensively.

As a result, Minnesota held a six-point lead at the end of the third quarter.

And then the script played out just as it had before: The Lynx offense went stale, the Storm fed off the crowd and the steady play of Sue Bird, who hit two three-pointers in the second overtime and finished with 22 points.

Now the Lynx must regroup after losing a game that they appeared to have won on multiple occasions. But the Lynx have been here before: They needed three games to get past last year's semifinals as well.


    Game 3, Western semifinals: 8 p.m. Tuesday vs. Seattle • Target Center • TV: ESPN2 • Series: tied 1-1

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