With 7 minutes, 28 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve sent Napheesa Collier back on the floor with two fouls.
Reeve was hoping Collier would be able to navigate the rest of the half without any more foul trouble.
Six seconds later, however, Collier was back on the bench with her third, and by the end of the quarter, Seattle had opened up a lead it never relinquished in its 89-79 victory over the Lynx in Game 2 of their WNBA semifinals matchup.
“That third foul was tough,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I guess it’s one of those things, she’s in the [restricted area], there’s a little bit of body and it’s like an automatic foul. Her feet are on the ground, if she jumps maybe it’s not a foul. It’s a tough call. It’s really disappointing. Obviously it hurt us.”
That one call had a ripple effect on the rest of the half and the series.
After Collier returned to the bench, it seemed as if the Lynx might survive that stretch without her. The Lynx were down 32-25, but rattled off the next eight points to take a 33-32 lead. During that run, Damiris Dantas scored four points while Bridget Carleton added a three-pointer. However, those would be the Lynx’s final points of the half, a stretch of 5:28 without any points.
Seattle took control of the game — and possibly the series — from there. Specifically, Jewell Loyd took over. Loyd scored 12 of the Storm’s next 14 points while the Lynx went silent enabling Seattle to take a 46-33 lead into halftime.
“Our shot selection wasn’t great in that stretch,” Reeve said. “They made some hard shots. Players raising up over the top of us shooting threes that you go sometimes that’s a shot you want them to take.”
Added Collier: “It’s frustrating to be on the bench, obviously. I wish I was in the game, but I’m just trying to be positive for my teammates. Helping them, telling them what I see on the floor and trying to help them make adjustments and things like that.”
Reeve said she debated bringing Collier back in as Seattle was making its run.
“I sure did,” Reeve said with a laugh. “Is it risky? Sometimes when you go just in the experience of doing this — her third foul is what scared me. The way it happened. I don’t want to send her back out there and she gets in the wrong place and you get the fourth.”
Reeve also didn’t think the deficit the Lynx faced at halftime was insurmountable, and she wanted Collier out of foul trouble when that rally time came.
“It’s only 13 at halftime. I say only 13, but for our team that’s kind of been the space we lived in,” Reeve said. “We felt like we would have a run and we wanted ‘Phee’ to be there for part of it. That was the risk we weren’t willing to take in that second quarter.”
Reeve was right. The Lynx did have a run in them as they cut a 21-point deficit to five late in the third quarter.
But Seattle regained command as the fourth quarter began and kept the Lynx from completing that comeback.