Whew, Lynx barely survive but still advance

Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore (23) hugs guard Monica Wright after their 73-72 win over the Seattle Storm in Game 3 of their WNBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS — Time stood still for the Minnesota Lynx. A season that appeared destined for a repeat of their WNBA championship was suddenly in limbo on Tuesday.

A second consecutive year in which they dominated the league had been diminished to a tenuous one-point lead.

The 3.3 seconds that remained to be played would seem like an hour. The basketball was put into play and landed in the hands of Seattle's Lauren Jackson, one of the world's best players. The Lynx watched with trepidation as the 6-foot-6 three-time WNBA most valuable player launched an 11-foot baseline jumper at the buzzer.

A basket would send the Lynx into an offseason of soul-searching to answer what went so horribly wrong in their season of great promise. Jackson's jumper was off target. The Lynx could finally exhale. Their season lives on.

Minnesota escaped with a 73-72 victory over the Storm in front of 8,023 at Target Center in the Western Conference semifinals. The top-seeded Lynx, who sputtered miserably on offense against the league's best defense, won the best-of-three series 2-1 to advance to the conference finals against No. 2 Los Angeles.


"Survive and advance, baby,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said afterward. "Just win the game, by one or 21, it doesn't matter. We were fortunate. The most enjoyable part is that we finished the game with 73 and they had 72.''

The Lynx appeared to be in good shape with a 73-69 lead, and the ball, in the final minute. Lynx point guard Lindsay Whalen had a chance to add to that lead but missed a 22-foot three-point attempt with 51.4 seconds remaining. Less than 20 seconds later, Seattle's Sue Bird, considered the world's best point guard along with Whalen, drained a three-pointer to draw the Storm to within one.

Seattle's congestive defense made one more key stop, forcing Whalen into an awkward seven-foot jumper with 10.9 seconds left.

The miss set the stage for upset stomachs and fans peeking through their fingers to see if the Lynx's quest for a championship repeat was doomed. "We drew up a play and had two options. One was to go to Lauren,'' Storm coach Brian Agler said. "She had a good look.''

Reeve said she knew the exact play the Storm were going to run. "It was scary that Jackson had the touch,'' Reeve said. "I thought we forced her into a tough shot.''

The Lynx can thank power forward Rebekkah Brunson for that. She hounded Jackson throughout the series, and the Lynx would be packing their bags for the offseason today if it hadn't been for Brunson on both ends of the court.

She also harassed Jackson on the buzzer-beating attempt. "She is a tough player,'' Brunson said of Jackson. "She takes big shots and makes big shots. I did everything I could to make it difficult for her. I was going to play her straight up. I wasn't worried about fouling her. You just hope for the best.'' Brunson scored 10 of her 16 points and had four of her nine rebounds in the fourth quarter, when the Lynx had difficulty getting separation from the Storm.

She also had double-doubles in both Games 1 and 2. "The MVP of the series, clearly, is Rebekkah Brunson,'' Reeve said. "We would have struggled without her.''


The Lynx were also thankful for Seimone Augustus, who took center stage in the third quarter, when she scored 12 of her game-high 21 points. In the first half, it was Maya Moore, who scored 17 of her 20 points. "We can breathe momentarily now that the Seattle series is all over,'' Brunson said. "Then we have to look ahead to L.A.'' Said Reeve: "We're happy to get out of here with a 'W'.''

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