Lynx win Game 1, series moves to SeattleSeptember 29, 2012
The Minnesota Lynx used balance scoring and tough defense to win the first game in their Western Conference semi-final series against the Seattle Storm Friday night at Target Center. The Lynx won 78-70 in front of a sellout crowd of 9,213.
The home team came out of the gate with a 9-1 run to start the contest, which the visiting Seattle squad gradually chipped away. At one point the Lynx appeared to have in the can with a 17 point lead, but a series of Lynx missed shots and hot-handed Seattle three-point shooting brought the 2010 WNBA champions back into single-digits against the 2011 WNBA champions. It was only when Minnesota center Taj McWilliams-Franklin sank two free-throws with 3.3 seconds remaining did the crowd cheer loudly knowing that the game was out of reach for the visitors.
“We’re ticked off. We had our chances. We want to compete. We want to win every time we go out there. Yeah, we’re not real happy,” said Storm forward Katie Smith. “I’m not saying we feel good about this game because we know a couple more shots or a couple more stops in the game could’ve been different. We just need to make more plays on both ends of the floor, whether it’s making shots or getting stops. It’s all set up for us, the mindset of what we need to do, we just need to execute and get things done.”
Four of the Lynx starters were in double-digit scoring, led by guard Lindsay Whalen, who netted 20 points and added 6 assists. Guard Seimone Augustus added 19, forwards Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson chipped in 16 and 12 points respectively. Brunson had a game-high 11 rebounds, the only player in double-digits rebounding.
Seattle had three players in double-digit scoring, forward Shekinna Stricklen led the Storm with 13 points while center Lauren Jackson and forward Katie Smith each netted 12. The Seattle bench outscored the Minnesota bench 26-5.
“We couldn’t keep them off the free throw line in the third quarter. I don’t know how many free throws they shot, but they were at the line. It seemed like the third quarter lasted about an hour-and-a-half,” said Storm head coach Brian Agler. “They were doing a really good job of congesting her [Jackson]. If you watched that game and watch the film, they were really going to her on the fly off the ball. On a pass to her on the block, they were double-teaming her. They were committed to taking her out of the game.”
Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve was satisfied with her team’s defensive performance.
“I was happy with our defense throughout the game. Just from a scoring standpoint, a lot of things that we focused on doing against them we just weren’t doing in the first half,” Reeve said. “I thought we did a little bit better of a job in the second half. That’s one thing that we’ll be studying. You know, it’s us and them. We’re the two top defensive teams in the league. For us to end up shooting 46 percent against them is pretty good when the rest of the teams are at 39 percent.”
Part of that defensive effort included Seimone Augustus effectiveness in containing Storm guard Sue Bird, who was held to 8 points and 3 assists.
“I think it was a total team effort. I just tried to use my size against her, but she’s an Olympian, one of the best players in the world,” said Augustus about her defense of Bird. “I just did what I said I could as far as getting every free throw in and getting every pass and trying to block every shot. It was a good effort, a great total team effort.”
“Seimone did everything that we hoped she would do tonight. It was a big challenge for her and a little bit of a departure for us. Often when we play Seattle, we’ll have Lindsay guarding Bird,” said Reeve. “Offensively, she took a little bit to get going but then took that string of shots and got a little bounce in her step. It was really good for her.”
“Somehow, our players don’t get recognized for MVP performances. This is that time of year when everyone else goes for the consolation prizes and we go for the big one. Seimone played like an MVP tonight,” she added.
With Game 1 in the books, it’s time to look forward to the second game in this best of three series, which will be played Sunday at 9 p.m. ET at Key Arena in Seattle.
“We have to get back and get rested. We will watch the film and talk with our team about the things we can improve on, which there are plenty,” said Agler. “We will come out and compete on Sunday.”
Augustus, meanwhile, just wants to get the series over with.
“I don’t know that we’re thinking about rest, but we’re thinking about the opportunity to play a tough road game,” she said. “This is what the playoffs are about. You’re going to have to win on the road, if possible, to win a championship. We definitely want to close it out in two games, and we are going to do our best effort, but Seattle has a great fan base and it’s a very tough arena to play in. I’m quite sure they are going to be amped up and ready to go.”
Reeve acknowledges the tough atmosphere that exists in the Pacific Northwest.
“We like playing there. We’re a team that thrives on that environment and how challenging it is. I know this – Game 2 will look nothing like Game 1. It’s always the case. Same exact players, same coaches, but the game will look a lot different. It’s very hard to close a team out, especially on their floor. We have to be even better, whether it’s the offensive end or some of the free-shots that the got. We have to do everything well. In order to win at Key Arena, you have to do everything great,” she said.
Seattle center Lauren Jackson is already looking forward to the match up.
“They are a great team and they played well tonight. I think we have a lot to learn from the game and I think for us going into Sunday’s game, it’s going to be important that we take tonight and learn from it. We will be watching film and learn things we didn’t do so well and things we did do well and try to win. We want to win,” Jackson said. “We can play a lot better. Our lockerroom right now is a little bit mad. A little bit somber after the game. We’re frustrated because we want to win. I know all of us can play better basketball than we did tonight. That’s something we need to take back and go out and get it done on Sunday.”
Both teams want to win. Will the defending champions close out the series and prepare for their next opponent? Or will Seattle avenge this loss to force a Game 3? We’ll find out when the series resumes Sunday night.