STORM LOSES: Blogging system went out, again. But probably would have shut down anyway given the tight finish to the game. Bird opted to sit out the final four minutes, wanting the lineup on the floor to continue its solid play. Smith and Wright nearly pulled out an upset, but plays to setup Jackson didn’t connect. Jackson, playing in her 10th WNBA game, missed an open three-pointer and an 11-foot jumper that combined could’ve cut the Lynx lead to one point with 33.2 seconds left in the game. Instead, Seattle lost 78-70 to Minnesota in the best-of-three playoff series. However, if Seattle (0-1) would have made the 10 free throws it missed (13 of 23) or a few more of the three-pointers it lobbed at the net (7 for 24), it wouldn’t have needed the late-game heroics. “There are just so many things that we can do better,” Agler said. “I don’t know if it’s frustrating. We put ourselves in a whole early. Got back…we missed some free throws. We missed some open looks. We couldn’t keep them off the free throw line in the third quarter. Those things were factors.” Game 2 moves to KeyArena on Sunday at 6p.m. PT on ESPN. “We like playing at KeyArena,” Revee said. “We’re a team that thrives on that environment. But I know this, Game 2 will look nothing like Game 1.” Whalen led all scorers with 20 points and Augustus added 19 for the Lynx (1-0). Jackson had one point in the second half, finishing with 12 along with Smith. Stricklen had team-high 13 points off the bench with seven boards and two assists.
LEAD GROWING: Minnesota is 6-for-8 from the field to start the second half, building a 48-35 lead. It’s shooting 50 percent overall.
QUICK TIME: Wright missed a three-pointer, Little turned the ball over and Agler had seen enough. He called for a timeout after Augustus scored under the hoop untouched. There’s 8:42 remaining in the third quarter and the Lynx have matched their game-high lead at 10 (37-27).
HALFTIME: The Red Panda Acrobat (Woman flipping plates on her head while ridding around on a unicycle) is the halftime entertainment. Haven’t seen her in a while and it’s an act that never gets old. Storm CEO and president Karen Bryant said the woman makes about $5,000 a game and performs about 250 times a year. Her feats seem as impossible as Seattle overcoming a 33-27 deficit at the break. Yes, it’s close. But the Lynx keep putting together mini runs to stay in front. Seattle has left a lot on the table, too. It missed four free throws and buckets that could have forced and-ones. The Storm is shooting 29.4 percent from the field, Jackson leading with 11. Three Lynx players have seven points or more led by Augustus (eight). Moore didn’t score in the second quarter. Brunson and Moore have five boards apiece. Brunson’s are all on the defensive end to help keep the Storm to four second-chance opportunities. Minnesota has turned the ball over nine times but Seattle has only scored five points off those miscues. If Seattle keeps its defense strong and can find a way to get its offense going, they have a chance. The Lynx are known to pour it on in the second half, however, especially in the fourth quarter.
ROLLING?: Little said prior to the series that the bench of rookies could be a big asset because teams really don’t know what to expect from them. Strick is one of those players Friday. She’s slipping into pockets for rebounds and using speed to get down court for layins off feeds from veterans. Jackson scored a turnaround jumper to make the deficit 33-27 with 29.3 seconds left in the half.
QUICK LEAD: Minnesota’s offense is breaking open. An 8-0 run has them up 33-23 with 2:37 remaining in the opening half. Augustus is finding her shot, scoring the past five points. Agler called time to discuss.
SOLID D: You can’t play much better defense that Seattle is playing right now. The team has forced eight turnovers and if it weren’t for some questionable officiating (mainly out-of-bounds calls) the score may be closer. But the Storm is every bit of its last-place ranking in offense. It is shooting 25.9 percent from the field and is down 28-21.
SCOREBOARD: Indiana F Tamika Catchings is talking about doing better after No. 2 Fever lost 76-66 to No. 3 Atlanta. Dream G Lindsey Harding led with 23 points First road team to win in the playoffs.
BUZZER BEATER: The Storm defense was superior in the opening quarter, helping to put together a 7-0 run to tie the game at 15 points. Only Moore nailed a three-pointer at the end-of-quarter buzzer to reignite the crowd. Seattle made 7 of its last 10 FGs. Bird nailed two three-pointers to lead her team with six points. Moore has eight, three rebounds and two assists. Lynx up 18-15.
INJECTION: Agler has gone to his bench and it’s injecting some life into the Storm’s offense. But so are the Lynx reserves. Rookie Shekinna Stricklen dished to Bird for a three-pointer. Later Strick made one of two FTs to trail 13-8 with 2:25 on the clock.
MORE MOORE: Moore is everywhere on the court, benefiting from offensive breakdowns to score when the Storm is looking elsewhere. Add a wicked up-and-under layin by Whalen off a feed from more and an Augustus jumper and the Lynx are up 9-1 with 6:08 on the clock. Seattle is tight and Jackson hasn’t touched the ball offensively, yet. Storm is 0-for-8 from field.
Everybody made it to the Target Center healthy for Game 1 of the Western Conference playoff series between No. 1 seed Minnesota (27-7) and fourth seeded Seattle (16-18). But both coaches have a player they’re likely to play minimal minutes due to a recent injury.
Lynx coach Cheryl Revee said C Amber Harris may play in three-minute spurts and she’s hoping it’s not up-and-down running with no stoppage. Harris is returning from a week-long bout of mono.
Storm coach Brian Agler will shorten his bench, probably not playing F Alysha Clark and C Ewelina Kobryn the minutes they saw in the regular-season. G Svetlana Abrosimova will be watched with a close eye after spraining her right wrist against Chicago, missing the final two games of the season. She has the area taped.
Target Center is draped in blue and white “Road to Repeat 2012 Playoffs” towels highlighted with the Lynx mascot in the center. The team is expecting about 10,000 fans — 500 receiving free tickets from Timberwolves star Kevin Love.
Rebounding and defense is going to be key in winning the series. If Seattle has any chance in winning this series (and avoiding a seventh first-round playoff elimination) it has to win Friday. Lynx All-Star Seimone Augustus gave an emphatic “Hell no!” when asked if they were going to sweep through the playoffs a la Seattle in 2010. But if both teams win their respective games at home, it’s hard to believe Minnesota won’t close out the series in the third and decisive matchup.
“As soon as our season ended I saw our group in San Antonio have this sense of, ‘OK, it’s time,'” Revee said. “We’re more calm, we’re more relaxed. We know what it’s going to feel like. We were just on a roll last year. Now we have experience.”
Who’s experience will pay off, Seattle’s with a roster full of WNBA champions? Or Minnesota, which won last year?
It’s about to go down, here’s how it starts:
F Katie Smith
F Camille Little
C Lauren Jackson
G Tanisha Wright
G Sue Bird
F Maya Moore
F Rebekkah Brunson
C Taj McWilliams-Franklin
G Seimone Augustus
G Lindsay Whalen
Tonight’s officials are Sue Blauch, Daryl Humphrey, Kevin Sparrock.