STORM WINS: Columnist Steve Kelley wrote about Seattle’s loud week of screaming celebration. He should have waited until Monday’s paper. The Storm defeated the Lynx 86-79 at KeyArena before 8,479 Storm Crazies. Check that. Screaming Maniacs that didn’t want the season to end. It was the turbo boost Seattle (1-1) needed in a game that saw 11 lead changes and nine ties. Many might have thought the game was over in the first half when the Lynx built a 13 point lead in the second quarter. Augustus scored 14 of her final 20 points in the third quarter. But the Storm’s defense increased its pressure, holding the Lynx to 23.1 percent shooting in the fourth quarter. Agler began to call simpler plays and Jackson, Wright and Bird all made clutch three-pointers to salvage a season that started off at 1-7 and faced 10 different lineups due to the players combining for 30 missed games due to injuries. Seattle hadn’t even won when behind all season. Still, it won to force a decisive Game 3 on Tuesday at Target Center. The winner plays Los Angeles (2-0) in the Western Conference Finals possibly beginning Thursday. “The Key is tough a tough place to play as it is with nothing at stake,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Revee said. “Now you add to it that it’s win or go fishing? You fully expect that they’re going to give their best effort…We stalled and we stalled in a really bad way. Seattle’s defense is very good.” Bird, who missed the final four minutes of Game 1, finished with a team-high 22 points on 8 for 15 shooting. Wright added 18 on 5 of 8 while Jackson had nine points (4-for-17) and 14 rebounds. The monster game went to Brunson, however, she had a team-high 22 points with 15 rebounds — seven on the offensive glass. But Minnesota’s streak of seven consecutive playoff wins is dust. Seattle will try to make the Lynx (1-1) season that, too. “It’s always nice to rewind things four, five or six times,” said Agler of tweaks going into Game 3 from watching film. The Storm will rise around 5 a.m. for a 8 a.m. flight to Minneapolis. “We’re excited about the opportunity to go back to Minnesota,” he said.
SIX POINTS: Don’t know what it is with the six-point deficit, but we’re at it again. The Storm is down 59-53 at the end of the third quarter. Jackson hit her past two buckets, good sign? Wright leads with 15 and Bird has 12. Augustus has 19 and six boards. Moore has only scored two points since the break. I’m out to write the newspaper version. It’s win or this is it for the Storm. Now or see you in 2013.
SNAPPIN NETS: Augustus keeps draining the shots to keep the Lynx ahead and the shots are gorgeous. Fter struggling against Wright’s defense in the first half, she has 12 in the quarter. Jackson later broke her drought with a slightly open turnaround shot and rookie Shekinna Stricklen made a layin with 1:31 left in the quarter to make the deficit 57-51. Lynx called time as KeyArena is on its feet and loud.
BRICK WALL: It seems every time the Storm makes a push, the Lynx are as resilient as a brick wall. After a Bird three-pointer closed Seattle within six points of a one-point deficit at the break, Minnesota pieced together a two buckets to make it 51-42. Jackson is on the bench but Ann Wauters is taking soft shots to go 0-for-3 from the field. There’s 5:51 remaining in the third quarter.
AUSSIE LINGO: Jackson missed a bucket under the hoop to open the second half and apparently took her frustration out on the officials, getting tagged for a technical foul. It’s the third of the game. Start a drinking game for fouls and techs. I’m sure you’ll be tossed by the end of this one.
WRIGHT ON: It’s a complete flip from Game 1, as expected. The backcourts play is particularly different. Whalen and Augustus are a combined 3 of 12 from the field for nine points and three assists. Wright is tearing it up and Bird is on point. They’re a combined 8 of 10 from the field for 22 points, five assists and five boards (all Wright). Minnesota leads 37-36. Wright leads with 13 points. Moore has 10 for the Lynx, which is shooting 38.7 percent from the field. The show is a magic act from Vegas. Still feels like Seattle will need a little to stay a live in this series.
ROLLIN: The Storm is on a 9-3 run to pull within 34-33 with 1:52 left in the half. Fouls and turnovers going Seattle’s way is the difference. Wright is the instigator, totaling 11 points. Whalen was on the bench during the run.
WATCH THE BIRDY: Bird is clutching her right hip often and playing with vigor. So who knows what’s up with the injury that had her missed games during the regular season. She said it’s not an injury she has to have surgically repaired and she can be active, she’s probably just playing in a lot of pain. Twice she turned bobbles into buckets to draw Seattle within 31-24. There’s 5:19 on the clock.
O-FER: The Storm is getting the ball to Jackson. Only she isn’t hitting. She’s 0 for 5 from the field in 10 minutes of play. The Storm also has nine turnovers for seven Lynx points. Seattle’s first bucket in the half was off a Bird jumper with 6:39 on the clock. They’re down 31-20.
FOULS: The fouls are 50-50. Both teams are playing really strong defense, so it’s understandable Storm fans want more calls to go their way. I only saw one — Smith’s drive to the hoop — that really shouldn’t have been called. Jackson is starting to bicker at officials, so it’s getting to the Storm. It needs to focus on the game otherwise the 29-18 Lynx lead will continue to grow. There’s 8:08 remaining before halftime.
NEW REFS: Its been a while since the Key has chanted “New Refs.” It was loud and clear after the Lynx pieced together a 9-0 run to close the quarter — most off FTs. It’s Minnesota 27-18. Brunson leads with seven. The Lynx are eight-for-eight from the line.
CHANGE UP: The fouls are starting to build up. Smith changed her hair from a free-flowing ponytail to a bun after the Storm collected its fifth foul and she was tagged for a second. Seattle’s down 22-18 with a minute left in the quarter.
CRISP: Agler is making his first substitutions. The opening five played crisp. The passes were strong. The defense was aggressive and there just wasn’t any weakness out there. Thompson hit a bank shot to make it 18-15. Smith was just T’d up, however, for disagreeing with a personal foul. Monica Wright is at the line for two, making both to tie the score at 18.
WRIGHT STUFF: Wright is all over the stat sheet. No surprise given her play all season. She has six points, two assists and two boards early. The Storm is shooting 50 percent (5 of 10) from the field, definitely better than the 1-8 start on Friday. The Lynx are right there. It’s a timeout before Brunson takes FT attempt off a Little foul. Seattle 13-12 with 4:18 remaining in the quarter.
FIRST FREEBIES: If there’s any sign of a turnaround, Little was the first to the line again and this time made both shots. (Seattle missed 10 in Game 1) Couple that with a Bird three-pointer and Seattle is up 7-6 with 7:17 on the clock.
LOOKING GOOD: The Key isn’t sold out. But I’m checking the courtside monitor of those Storm Crazies present and you’re looking good. Brunson scored the first basket of the game and Wright responded with 9:18 remaining in the first quarter. All tied at two.
TECH ISSUES: Just an FYI, if something goes array here, I’ll switch to Twitter (@JaydaEvans). Since it’s happened more than usual this season, I want to say it up front. I’ll continue to shutdown for the fourth quarter and tweet the final score at the end of the game.
STORM ASKING?: Wondered, again, why Bird didn’t play the final four minutes of the Storm’s playoff loss Friday and the camp said the same. She’s always going to give 100 percent of herself and she wanted the group on the correct to continue its roll. When asked how she felt Sunday, Bird replied “I’m fine.”
SHOWING SUPPORT: Soooo, we don’t have current NBA players like Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Andrei Kirilenko to show up or buy mass amounts of tickets to the Storm’s Game 2. But Seattle does have something better. How hedge fund guru Chris Hansen, who’s headed a push to return the NBA to the city, writing a blog of support and Sonics champion Slick Watts courtside. Watts is a regular, but still. Next to him is former Sonics coach Lenny Wilkins, another frequent patron.
Music blared from Lauren Jackson’s headset. Sue Bird watched game film on the big screen. Tina Thompson applied the final touches of her notorious lipstick. Game strategies marked in red on the dry-erase board were in all caps.
Yeah, it’s a do-or-die Game 2 playoff game for the Storm at KeyArena on Sunday. If Seattle can’t manage a win in the best-of-three series its season is done. It would be the seventh first-round exit in the franchise’s WNBA-record nine playoff appearances. The other two ended the Storm’s championships.
The Storm had multiple chances to win in Game 1, ultimately losing 78-70. The most glaring stat was allowing the Lynx 23 FT attempts in the second half. Storm coach Brian Agler rolled his eyes as if reliving the third quarter when the Lynx really took advantage of the disparity. But Thompson wants her team to play the same.
“Some of those calls were like, ‘Wow,” Thompson said. “I don’t want us to play differently. That’s another thing you can’t control. We’re going to continue to be aggressive. And a lot of those calls could have gone either way. In those moments when those calls happen, we have to make adjustments, especially when they come more frequently.
“But as far as our aggression, it’s kind of us putting a stamp on the game defensively. That’s something we want to continue to do. We have a team full of gamers. People have been in this situation many times for a very long time. I expect everybody to be who they are.”
If you missed today’s write ups, Minnesota isn’t expecting a same look in Game 2 from either team and wants to get going offensively even more so. The league’s top defensive team, Seattle was able to hold the below its regular-season average (86.0 points) and to three offensive boards.
On both sides, the errors seem so minor and correctable. If the Storm is able to make theirs and win at home as it’s supposed to, then there will be a second Game 3 in the WNBA playoffs. No. 2 Indiana defeated No. 3 Atlanta 103-88 on the road Sunday afternoon. Spokane’s Briann January was key, finishing with 24 points and seven assists.
Can the Storm get similar production from its backcourt to win Sunday? The bell is ringing in KeyArena so it’s about that time to find out. Here are your starting lineups:
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 Clarke Stevens, Michael Price, Brenda Pantoja.