By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
SEATTLE — It was the kind of win that can turnaround a season.
The Seattle Storm started strong, but had to grit out a 65-62 victory over the previously undefeated Minnesota Lynx on Sunday night at KeyArena. With a 10-0 record coming into the game, the Lynx were off to the best start in WNBA history.
Not much jumped off the stat sheet for Storm head coach Brian Agler. He said the little things made the difference.
“I just think that some of the intangible things were more important, getting some of the loose balls, the long rebounds,” Agler said. “Stuff you don’t see on the stat sheet.”
The win ended a record-setting start for the Lynx, but Agler downplayed that accomplishment.
“The streak to me doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’m just glad to see our team improving.”
One of the areas in which Agler was pleased was his team’s effort on the defensive end. Minnesota came into the game shooting a league-best 52.1 percent from the field and averaging nearly 83 points per game. The Storm held the Lynx to 37.5 percent shooting and just 62 points.
Returning home to play their first game in nearly three weeks after a road-trip in which they finished 1-4, the Storm jumped out to a 13-point lead by halftime and led by as many as 17. But the Lynx opened the fourth quarter on a 13-1 run that spanned the first seven minutes of the period, cutting Seattle’s advantage to 58-57.
Then the Storm woke up.
Katie Smith hit a 3-pointer and Camille Little scored inside with a layup to extend the lead to 63-57 with just over two minutes to play.
Minnesota’s Maya Moore knocked down a 3-pointer to once again trim Seattle’s lead to 63-60 with 2:03 remaining in the game. Neither team scored for nearly a minute until Moore went to the free-throw line with 1:05 remaining and sank two free throws.
There would be little scoring in the game’s final minute, but plenty to keep the KeyArena crowd of 8,349 on the edge of its seat.
The Storm failed to score on their next possession, but Minnesota knocked a loose ball out of bounds with 40.4 seconds remaining to give the Storm possession and a new shot clock. Seattle used the entire 24 seconds, but came up empty once again. Minnesota took possession with 16 seconds left looking for the game-winner.
The Lynx called timeout and set up a play. The end result was a Seimone Augustus baseline jumper that rimmed out. Storm forward Tina Thompson secured the rebound and Seattle immediately called timeout.
There was little doubt the Storm would try to get the ball to Bird and everyone in the building expected her to be fouled immediately. What no one expected was what happened after the foul. Bird missed a pair of free throws with 3.7 seconds left. But Thompson grabbed the rebound of Bird’s second miss. She was fouled with one second remaining and sank both free throws to seal the victory.
“I actually saw (the ball) kind of come off (the rim) a little bit and I saw Rebekkah (Brunson) kind of step in and then the ball went back,” Thompson said. “I just tapped the ball trying to get it to myself and it was one of those things. Although I was trying to get it, a little luck kind of bouncing my way helped too, I believe.”
No one was happier that Thompson was able to come up with the ball than Bird.
“I said thank you immediately,” Bird said. “That was huge. That really sealed the game for us. When she got that rebound, I definitely exhaled.”
The Lynx called timeout to set up a quick 3-point attempt, but Moore’s shot came up short.
Bird led all scorers with 21 points, including five 3-pointers. Moore led the Lynx with 14 points.
The Storm improved to 3-7 and earned their first win of the season over a team other than Tulsa.
Aaron Lommers covers the Seattle Storm for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.