By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird have been the cornerstones of the Seattle Storm for more than a decade. Sunday night at KeyArena they had one of their finest moments in an 86-79 double overtime victory over the Minnesota Lynx in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Jackson gave the Storm new life with a game-tying 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in regulation that sent the game to overtime and Bird sealed the victory with two clutch 3-pointers in the second overtime.
The victory forced a decisive Game 3 back in Minneapolis on Tuesday. The winner will advance to the Western Conference Finals to face the Los Angeles Sparks.
“I thought our team did a great job just finding a way to win,” Bird said. “Even though we are happy with this, we are not satisfied. We know we have a good opportunity ahead of us in Minnesota and hopefully we can come away with a win, but we know it’s not going to be easy.”
Game 2 wasn’t easy for the Storm either. The two teams battled in the first quarter with the Storm leading early, but the Lynx coming on late to take a 27-18 lead heading into the second quarter. There were four ties and eight lead changes in the first quarter, but it was a 16-0 run the Lynx started late in the first quarter they extended into the second that gave them a commanding lead.
The Lynx lead would last into the fourth quarter, but the Storm wouldn’t go away. They countered the Lynx 16-0 run with a 15-3 run of their own and trailed 37-36 at halftime.
“For us to play well we have to defend people,” Storm head coach Brian Agler said. “We just weren’t catching breaks. We weren’t hitting shots. We weren’t being quite as gritty we wanted to be on the defensive end.
Fortunately we did find a way to stay in the game.”
The Lynx extended the lead to 10 again in the third quarter, but again the Storm responded in the fourth quarter.
Camille Little’s layup with 3 minutes, 12 seconds to play in the game gave Seattle its first lead since the first quarter and the raucous crowd of 8,479 sensed victory inching closer.
But there is a reason the Lynx had the best record in the WNBA from season’s beginning to season’s end. Rebekkah Brunson scored four straight points to give the Lynx the lead with just 34.9 seconds to play.
Seattle went to Jackson to try and tie the score on the next possession, but she missed a driving layup and Maya Moore secured the rebound for the Lynx.
After a timeout, Lindsay Whalen was fouled by Bird and calmly knocked down two free throws to give Minnesota a 69-65 lead.
The Storm called a timeout and quickly set up a play for Bird, who knocked down a 17-foot jump shot to cut the deficit to 69-67. Seattle fouled Taj McWilliams-Franklin with 11 seconds to play. McWilliams-Franklin made just one of two free throws, giving Minnesota a 70-67 lead and setting the stage for Jackson.
Bird brought the ball down and Jackson set a screen on the perimeter. Minnesota failed to switch on the screen and Bird passed the ball to Jackson for the game-tying shot. Jackson shot just 4-for-17 in the game, but made up for it with the shot that saved the Storm’s season.
“Fortunately for us, Sue made a good read and got it to Lauren and Lauren didn’t hesitate and hit the shot,” Agler said.
More adversity faced the Storm in the first overtime. Jackson fouled out of the game with 40.2 seconds to play by fouling Brunson, who made one of two free throws to give the Lynx a 75-72 lead. If the Storm were going to win, they would have to come from behind again and this time do it without Jackson.
Normally known for her defense, Tanisha Wright hit a 3-pointer that ultimately sent the game to double overtime.
The second overtime was all Storm. Bird gave the Storm a two-possession lead with 2:25 to play in the game with a 3-pointer and delivered a dagger with her final 3-point shot of the night with 42.5 seconds to play, increasing Seattle’s lead to 86-79.
Bird finished the game with 22 points to lead the Storm. Brunson also had 22 to lead Minnesota.
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.