After the game, diplomacy reigned.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she ducked, couldn’t see. A few players who were on the bench with 13.6 seconds left said the same thing.
When asked if a late-game, potentially game-turning inbounds pass by Seattle from in front of the Lynx bench had actually gone off her finger and out of bounds Maya Moore paused, then said, “Which finger?”
Though it probably shouldn’t have happened this way, the Lynx beat Seattle 73-67 at Target Center on Tuesday night by a fingernail. With an 18-point Lynx lead whittled down to three, Jenna O’Hea’s inbounds pass appeared to go off Moore’s fingertip out of bounds. But after a rather long review, the officials awarded the Lynx the ball, and Minnesota hit two of three free throws down the stretch to win. The victory gave the Lynx (22-11) the WNBA’s Western Conference title, their fourth in five seasons, which guarantees them homecourt advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs. The Lynx will open against Los Angeles on either Sept. 17 or 18.
Minnesota will finish the regular season Friday in Seattle in a game that still has meaning. While it’s unlikely the Lynx can catch New York for the league’s best record, Reeve would like a win to ensure her team would have the edge on Chicago should the two teams meet in the finals.
Moore scored 20 points with seven rebounds and five assists. Guard Anna Cruz played her best game in a Lynx uniform, scoring 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting — including a big three-pointer in the fourth quarter — and eight assists. Center Sylvia Fowles scored 14.
After the game the mood was festive for a team that, up 18 with 4:04 left in the third quarter, had to sweat down the stretch.
That’s when Reeve, wanting to give her starters some rest, sat Fowles, Rebekkah Brunson and Moore. By the time the third quarter ended, the lead was down to 11. By the time Reeve went back to all her starters early in the fourth, it was down to eight. With 2:48 left Seattle’s Alysha Clark (12 points) scored to make it one.
“It was about as good a time as any to try to get players some rest, being up 18,” Reeve said. “Unfortunately, that group wasn’t able to sustain the lead, or even keep it at arm’s length.’’
Moore scored on the baseline for a 68-65 Lynx lead, but Seattle’s Jewell Loyd (13 points) answered. With 1:13 left Moore scored from 15 feet for a 70-67 lead. Then things got interesting. It was still a three-point game when the Lynx missed three layups. Clark got the rebound with 13.6 seconds left and called time out. What happened next depends on who you talk to.
“Are you asking me to say Maya tipped it out?” joked Renee Montgomery. “What do you think this is? I saw what the refs saw. Our ball.’’
Said Moore: “There were a lot of great calls throughout the game. And there are calls we might disagree with. At the end of the day it probably all balances out.’’
Perhaps more importantly is the Lynx executed rather well down the stretch, unlike Sunday in their loss to New York. They got good shots most times down the court, and made just enough of them to win.
“I told our team congratulations for accomplishing a major goal, to be the best in the West,” Reeve said. We were able to check that off our list.’’