In the second quarter of the Lynx’s game with Seattle on Thursday, Napheesa Collier went to the bench with three fouls.
For a while, the Lynx shook that off, forging a one-point lead midway through the quarter. But the rest of the half was a mess. With the Lynx going 0-for-10 over the final five minutes, and with Jewell Loyd heating up for the Storm, Seattle ended the half on a 14-0 run on the way to an 89-79 victory.
The Lynx are in an 0-2 hole in their best-of-five WNBA semifinals with Seattle. Game 3 is Sunday afternoon at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., when the Lynx will begin trying to do what no other league team has ever done: come back. WNBA teams are 0-13 in five-game series when falling behind 0-2.
If you look at the team stats through two games, they are remarkably close. Seattle is shooting a little better, the Lynx have been more efficient from three-point range. Even though Seattle scored 18 points off turnovers in their 10-point Game 2 win, the Lynx have turned the ball over just 20 times in two games, this after the Lynx had more than 20 turnovers in both of the regular-season games between the two teams.
Perhaps the biggest difference is the runs. As Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said Thursday night, to beat Seattle you have to go toe-to-toe with them on offense. That means no lapses.
“We have played really well on that side of the ball,” Reeve said. “Even when Phee went out, with a little more than seven minutes with her third [foul], we continued to score. Then we had that stretch.”
Said Collier: “We have to do the things that are easy for us. When we have lapses is when we’re not moving the ball, trying to create for one another. We’re really good when we’re moving the ball, getting to the third or fourth pass.”
There are other things film from Game 2 showed. The Lynx have to figure out a way to at least cool Loyd, who had 25 points in the first game and 20 in the second, scoring 12 points in that 14-0 run.
Reeve promised more aggressive defensive switches in her case.
But those offensive lapses have to stop. In Game 1 Seattle ended the first quarter on an 8-0 run, and went 24-8 on the Lynx from midway through the second quarter into the third. Thursday that 14-0 run put the Storm in the lead for good.
In both games the Lynx have responded with runs of their own. They cut a 21-point deficit to five late in the third quarter of Game 2 before missing three of four free throws in the final minute of the quarter that could have made it a one-possession game. But the fact is lapses have forced the Lynx to dig out of holes, rather than create them for Seattle.
“It’s the possessions where we don’t have the attention to detail to get open where we want to get open,” Reeve said. “And the second part, it’s when we deviate from the ball movement, when we decide to individually try to do something that’s more difficult. We lose our brain for a moment, get sped up.”
So the key for the Lynx is to keep their collective cool while turning up the intensity. This is an elimination game, and they know it. But they can’t look at having to win three games, they have to focus on this one.
“We go into every game wanting to win it, obviously,” Collier said. “I think the preparation isn’t different. But we know the fire is under our butts saying we have to win this otherwise we’re not going to be here anymore.
“So I think we have to bring intensity that is at the highest level.”