The question to keep asking amid the din and uncertainty was whether the Lynx had enough left — enough energy, enough depth, enough oxygen — to again do what their star players have done so many times before.
In pursuit of a third WNBA title in five years, the Lynx feature the same power trio they’ve won with before, but now they’re at different stages of their careers, with different moving parts on the roster and perhaps ligaments that don’t move the way they once did.
There was even a hint of tension before Game 2 of the Finals at Target Center. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve smiled as she said that she and Seimone Augustus have a “love-hate relationship. I love her … and she hates me.”
Reeve had publicly demanded more of Augustus and star point guard Lindsay Whalen after the Game 1 loss, and in Game 2 the Lynx responded with raw emotion and a comeback victory to tie the series as it shifts to Indiana. The Lynx won 77-71, with center Sylvia Fowles producing 21 points and nine rebounds and saying she “put the team on my back” even though it once again fell to Maya Moore to take the ball in the fourth quarter.
“You probably got some pretty entertaining pictures tonight,” Moore said. “We were pretty animated.”
So was Indiana first-year coach Stephanie White, who said lax officiating created “a bloodbath.”
Referring to Reeve’s complaints about the officiating in Game 1, White said, “I guess, first and foremost, I learned a valuable lesson today. I learned that it pays to go public with comments about officials. Who would have known that?
“Because this game was a bloodbath. I’ve never seen a player, of Tamika Catchings’ caliber, get so disrespected in my life. Never. And to me that’s a travesty. … So one up for the veteran, and a lesson learned for the rookie.”
Reeve, presumably penalized for complaining about the refs after Game 1, may have been hiding a smirk as she said, “I cannot comment on officiating. That’s the first time in my life, I think, I’ve done that.”
Whatever the accuracy of the calls, they hurt Indiana more than Minnesota. Catchings played only 24 minutes. She opened the second half with seven points and one assist in the first 2:19 to give Indiana a 52-43 lead. After she was called for her fourth foul, Minnesota began a 13-2 run that included Moore driving at Catchings and forcing her fifth foul.
“We told our team, we are going to bottle up every sense of frustration, every sense of anger, every sense of what we didn’t accomplish tonight, put that in a bottle and let it explode,” Catchings said.
Catchings was shaking as she said, “As a good player you should never be sitting on the bench. You should never put your team in position where they have to play without you. So I’m very frustrated.”
With less than 30 seconds remaining in the game and the Lynx holding a three-point lead, Moore took a long jumper with the shot clock running down. The ball caromed off the iron and a scramble ensued, with Lynx reserve Devereaux Peters diving toward the scorer’s table and recovering the ball.
It was an ugly, frenetic play typical of the Lynx’s desperation Tuesday.
“We showed some grit,” Reeve said. “Indiana was going for the knockout, the second win on the road.”
The Lynx displayed so much intensity the players didn’t always play with control or efficiency. Fowles’ early dominance inside allowed her to make 10 of her 13 shots. The rest of her team made 20 of 58, or 34 percent. Moore made six of 17 shots.
“She was just awful early,” Reeve said. “Shot selection, the way she was playing. It was a case where I think our team was so amped up to play, Maya being the one who was the most amped up, she just needed to settle down.”
That may be unrealistic for the rest of the series.
How much more do these players have left? They’re in position to again find out.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org.