For the second straight season, the Minnesota Lynx have been pushed to the limit in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
If the Lynx are to remain on course to defend their WNBA title, they’ll need a seventh consecutive home victory over the Seattle Storm in Tuesday night’s decisive Game 3.
Minnesota entered the 2011 postseason with a league-best 27-7 record but needed three games to eliminate fourth-seeded San Antonio after losing to the Silver Stars on the road in Game 2. The Lynx rolled to an 85-67 home win in the decisive third game, then won the next five to claim their first championship.
This season, the Lynx again entered the playoffs with the top overall mark and beat Seattle 78-70 at home in Game 1. However, the fourth-seeded Storm overcame a 13-point first-half deficit and evened the series with an 86-79 double-overtime home win Sunday.
Though the Lynx find themselves in the same scenario as last year, they hope that experience will help get them through and on to face Los Angeles in the conference finals. Minnesota is looking to become the first team since the Sparks in 2001 and ’02 to repeat as league champion.
“We did put ourselves in a similar situation last year so we know that it’s not over,” said forward Rebekkah Brunson, who had 22 points and 15 rebounds in Game 2. “We know if we come out on Tuesday night and play the way that we’re supposed to play, and focus in, then we’re in a good position.”
The Lynx should feel good about their chances with a return to the Target Center, where they went 16-1 during the regular season and won the last six versus Seattle by an average of 13.0 points.
If Minnesota is to continue that success, however, it must shoot better than it did Sunday. The Lynx went 9 for 17 in the first quarter but 16 for 60 the rest of the way, shooting 32.5 percent overall.
“The ball wouldn’t go in the hole, and that was the story of the game,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “At some point, you have to score - there’s only so much you can do defensively.”
Seimone Augustus added 20 points for the Lynx, who went on a 16-0 run to take a 31-18 lead before Seattle outscored them 18-6 to trail by one at halftime. Storm star Lauren Jackson hit a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and teammate Tanisha Wright’s 3 with 23.9 left sent the game into a second extra period.
Tina Thompson opened the second overtime with a 3-pointer that gave the Storm the lead for good.
“The first (game) wasn’t easy, the second game wasn’t easy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if (the next) game is harder than both,” said Storm guard Sue Bird, who had 22 points Sunday.
Though Bird played well in Game 2, she’s totaled 20 points and shot 7 for 27 in three games at Minnesota in 2012.
Augustus has averaged 20.3 points in the last three contests versus Seattle after totaling 22 in her previous two against the Storm.