To open up the semifinal round of the WNBA Playoffs on Tuesday, the fourth-seeded Minnesota Lynx were one play away from stealing the series-opening game against the title favorite No. 2 Seattle Storm.
Seattle ultimately made one more play than Minnesota before time expired, thanks to a buzzer-beating shot from Alysha Clark to seal the Game 1 victory and go up 1-0. The Lynx, however, came out of that game with some positives they hoped would help in bouncing back to even up the series in Game 2 on Thursday night.
Unfortunately, Minnesota didn’t put together a similar performance in Game 2, falling to Seattle 89-79 while dropping behind 0-2 in the best-of-5 series. The Storm will have a chance to sweep the series and advance to the WNBA Finals on Sunday afternoon in Game 3 at 2 p.m. CT on ABC, while the Lynx have their backs against the wall and the season on the line.
“One game a time. We’re not worried about being down 2-0,” Odyssey Sims said after Thursday’s game. “We’re going to focus on us and get better and figure out how to win Game 3.”
From the start of the game, the Storm out-dueled the Lynx, and Minnesota couldn’t put a strong enough comeback attempt together in the second half to get back into the contest.
Seattle, which held a 46-33 lead into halftime, led by as much as 21 points in the third quarter until Minnesota made a second-half run cutting into that large lead. The Lynx narrowed the game down to five in the final minutes of the third quarter, but the Storm were ultimately able to hold them off to pull out their second straight series victory.
“What we anticipated from Seattle in this game was that they would turn up their pressure, and they did. I thought that really bothered us,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “We just didn’t accomplish a whole lot.”
Prior to tip-off, Minnesota found out that Sylvia Fowles would once again be held out of the game with a calf injury, which meant Damiris Dantas, Napheesa Collier and company would be relied upon to step up similar to what they did in Game 1.
Dantas got off to a hot start, ending up with a team-best 23 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the loss, but Collier had to sit out most of the first half in foul trouble which didn’t help the Lynx in the opening two quarters. Collier finished with 12 points and three rebounds, with Sims adding 18 points, five rebounds and four assists and Crystal Dangerfield tallying 10 points and seven assists for Minnesota.
Jewell Loyd was once again the best player in the game for both teams, leading Seattle with 20 points, five rebounds and four assists. Breanna Stewart pitched in with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Storm.
“They have a lot of players who can make a play and score at all positions,” Collier said. “You have to be on your game. … We just have to be more aware of that. We did a good job of that in Game 1 and we backed off that a bit (in Game 2).”
Although they are now down 0-2 — a deficit no team has ever come back from in a best-of-5 series — the Lynx will look to get the first win of the semifinals on Sunday in Game 3 with the hopes of fending off elimination.
“We’ve got one more crack at this,” Reeve said. “We have a 40-minute game and the mindset is we’ve got to win a game. Sunday will be that day.”
NO. 7 CONNECTICUT SUN 2, NO. 1 LAS VEGAS ACES 1
GAME 1: SUN 87, ACES 62
GAME 2: ACES 83, SUN 75
game 3: SUN 77, ACES 68
In the other half of the semifinals on Thursday, the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces and the seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun battled in an important Game 3 with the series 1-1 and the winner looking to get within one game of taking the series and advancing to the WNBA Finals.
The Sun opened the best-of-5 series with a convincing win in Game 1 to jump out in front of the Aces, but Las Vegas battled back in Game 2 to even the series and make things interesting. That set the stage for one team to pull within a game of the WNBA Finals on Thursday.
Las Vegas claimed the top spot in the playoffs after an 18-4 effort during the regular season. The Aces held the No. 4 seed during the postseason a year ago, and fell to the eventual WNBA champion Washington Mystics 3-1 in the semifinals.
Connecticut, which grabbed one of the final playoff spots entering the postseason a year after reaching the WNBA Finals as a No. 2 seed, has put together a solid playoff run thus far and has given the top seed in the playoffs all they can handle through three games.
In Thursday’s ever-important Game 3, the contest was a back-and-forth matchup much like what took place in Game 2 but resulted in Connecticut coming out on top thanks to late-game execution down the stretch to hold off Las Vegas. For the Sun, they were led by Alyssa Thomas with 23 points, 12 rebounds and four assists and Brionna Jones with 15 points and 10 rebounds.. WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson paced the Aces with 20 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, while Angel McCoughtry had 14 points and seven rebounds and former Lynx guard Danielle Robinson added 11 points and four rebounds.
The two teams will return to action in Game 4 on Sunday, with Connecticut looking to close out the series and advance to the WNBA Finals for the second straight season. Game 4 is set to tip off at noon CT on ESPN.
The series between Connecticut and Las Vegas contains multiple Lynx connections to keep an eye on throughout the best-of-5 series.
For Las Vegas, there are a pair of former Lynx players on the roster. Danielle Robinson played in Minnesota from 2018-19 before leaving in free agency this offseason to sign with the Aces. Sugar Rodgers, who was drafted by the Lynx in the second round of the 2013 Draft and won a championship with Minnesota that year, also plays for Las Vegas. And Reeve was an assistant on Bill Laimbeer’s staff in Detroit from 2006-09.
For Connecticut, second-year guard Natisha Hiedeman is on its roster, a former Lynx draft pick. Minnesota drafted Hiedeman with the No. 18 selection in the 2019 WNBA Draft, later traded Hiedeman to Connecticut on draft night for guard Lexie Brown. The Sun are also the former team of current Lynx guard Rachel Banham, who was drafted out of the University of Minnesota by Connecticut with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 WNBA Draft and was later traded to Minnesota — just like former Lynx great Lindsay Whalen.
During the 2020 regular season, Minnesota swept Connecticut and was swept by Las Vegas in two matchups against both teams. The Lynx beat the Sun 77-69 on July 26 and 78-69 on Aug. 1. Minnesota lost to the Aces 87-77 back on Aug. 13 and 104-89 in the second game on Sept. 10.
Below is a full breakdown of every round of the WNBA Playoffs, including results and upcoming games.
FIRST ROUND (SINGLE-ELIMINATION):
No. 7 Connecticut Sun 94, No. 6 Chicago Sky 81
No. 5 Phoenix Mercury 85, No. 8 Washington Mystics 84
SECOND ROUND (SINGLE-ELIMINATION):
No. 4 Minnesota Lynx 80, No. 5 Phoenix Mercury 79
No. 7 Connecticut Sun 73, No. 3 Los Angeles 59
SEMIFINAL ROUND (BEST-OF-5 SERIES):
(ALL TIMES CENTRAL TIME)
Game 1 — No. 7 Connecticut Sun 87, No. 1 Las Vegas Aces 62
Game 1 — No. 2 Seattle Storm 88, No. 4 Minnesota Lynx 86
Game 2 — Las Vegas 83, Connecticut 75
Game 2 — Seattle 89, Minnesota 79
Game 3 — Connecticut 77, Las Vegas 68
Game 3 — Sunday: Seattle vs. Minnesota, 2 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4 — Sunday: Las Vegas vs. Connecticut, noon (ESPN)
Game 4 (if necessary) — Seattle vs. Minnesota, TBD
Game 5 (if necessary) — Connecticut vs. Las Vegas, TBD
Game 5 (if necessary) — Seattle vs. Minnesota, TBD
WNBA FINALS (BEST-OF-5 SERIES):
(ALL TIMES CENTRAL TIME)
Game 1 — Friday, Oct. 2, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2 — Sunday, Oct. 4, 2 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3 — Tuesday, Oct. 6, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 4 (if necessary) — Thursday, Oct. 8, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 5 (if necessary) — Sunday, Oct. 11, 2 p.m. (ABC)