Scoggins: Whalen's grit shines through in clincher

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 3, 2012 - 12:04 AM

Bumped and bruised throughout the series, the Lynx point guard summoned enough to make a difference.

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Taj McWilliams-Franklin helped up teammate Lindsay Whalen after she hit the deck going after a loose ball in the second quarter.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Lindsay Whalen didn't have much time to celebrate another victorious playoff series late Tuesday night. She headed almost immediately to the trainer's room, still in uniform.

"Tough as nails," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said as she hugged her point guard a few minutes later.

Whalen sported a large blue wrap and bag of ice on her injured left wrist.

"Whew," she said, plopping down in her chair in the locker room. "Good win, good win."

Painful one, too. The Lynx survived a rough-and-tumble series against the Seattle Storm by the closest of margins -- 73-72 on a missed shot at the buzzer by Seattle in a loser-go-home Game 3 -- and Whalen felt like one giant bruise afterward.

She got clobbered on a screen on the first possession in Game 2 and injured her hand in the first quarter Tuesday night.

"It was definitely physical," she said.

Whalen suffered a bone bruise and cut on her left (non-shooting) hand while diving for a loose ball in the first quarter. Adding insult to injury, she was called for a foul. She already had her left wrist taped and her left ring finger bandaged before tipoff.

The team announced Whalen's return was questionable as the medical staff worked on her wrist in the locker room. In typical Whalen fashion, she downplayed the injury afterward, not wanting to draw any additional attention to her toughness.

"What's done is done," she said. "Everybody has different things this time of year. That's the way it goes. Just tried to do what I could and stay within my means."

She finished with six points on 2-for-9 shooting with four rebounds and three assists. Her hand clearly forced her to alter her game, but Whalen showed no hesitancy on a timely baseline jumper as the teams traded baskets down the stretch. Whalen swished the 18-footer to give the Lynx a 69-64 lead with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left.

"Obviously I had a lot of tape on my hand," she said. "I was able to make that one jump shot in the corner, and that ended up being a big one. I really wanted a couple more to go down. It felt good to make that one."

Whalen missed two shots after that -- including a hurried one in traffic with the shot clock at :01 -- but she finished the game and was able to look forward to another trip to the conference finals.

She could use a few days off. Or a nice long soak in the cold tub to nurse those aches and pains.

Whalen made only two of 15 shots in Game 2 after getting "rocked on an awful chuck of a screen" by 6-6 Lauren Jackson, Reeve said.

"It rocked her and kind of knocked her off-kilter for most of the game," Reeve said.

So did her tumble on Tuesday, which caused the Lynx to sputter for several minutes while her teammates searched for an offensive flow in Whalen's absence.

"Obviously Lindsay is one of our franchise players," Reeve said. "She's a player that makes things go for us. It was challenging in those moments. This has been a tough series for her. Tough game in Seattle, and things got tough for her again. It's been pretty physical for her."

The entire series went that way as Seattle pushed the defending champions to the brink with their physical brand of basketball. The Storm has a reputation of muddying its opponent's offense with grind-it-out defense, and the Lynx fell victim, too. The Lynx led the league in scoring, field-goal percentage and assists, but nothing came easy in this series.

"I don't know why people thought we were just going to blow them out of the water," guard Seimone Augustus said.

Well, for starters, the Lynx are the defending champs, have more talent, won 11 more games than Seattle and owned home-court advantage. And, with the exception of 41-year-old center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, their legs are younger than the aging Storm, which has seven players age 30 or older.

Whalen probably feels a few years older now. But her team survived and advanced, which made everything feel a lot better.

Chip Scoggins ascoggins@startribune.com

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