For the first time since the 2017 season, the Minnesota Lynx will be playing beyond the two single-elimination playoff rounds in the postseason. The fourth-seeded Lynx tipped off action in the single-elimination second round Thursday night, facing the tough fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury who were riding high off of a last-second win in Round 1.
After falling behind early, Minnesota battled back and pulled away late to escape with the win behind key stops late to grab an 80-79 victory and advance to the best-of-five semifinal round beginning Sunday. The Lynx will take on the 2-seed Seattle Storm in the semifinals, with Game 1 tipping off Sunday at 2 p.m. CT on ABC.
“After a win like there, there’s a lot of emotions. … We’re pretty darn excited,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said after the game. “We knew we had our work cut out for us.”
Things weren’t going well for the Lynx early on in the second round against the Mercury, falling behind 21-9 early in the first quarter while trailing 46-37 going into halftime. In the second half, Minnesota turned the tables behind a strong third quarter while being able to hold off a Phoenix comeback late in the fourth to advance.
“We didn’t think it was great in a single-elimination game (to fall behind early),” Reeve said. “We knew we’d have to keep playing. … For whatever reason, this team, they keep playing.”
The Lynx had Sylvia Fowles return to the starting lineup in the game, but she had a bit of a struggle getting her legs back underneath her while knocking off some rust in her first action since Aug. 13. Outside of Fowles, Damiris Dantas, Crystal Dangerfield and Odyssey Sims led the second-half charge for Minnesota. Dantas had a team-best 22 points and eight rebounds, while Dangerfield had 17 points and Sims pitched in with 14 points, four assists and four steals.
“This was a win-or-go home situation and we weren’t ready to go home just yet. It was a lot of effort that went into that game,” Dangerfield said. “We knew we had to put it all out on the line because we didn’t know if there was going to be a tomorrow.”
After being bounced from the playoffs in the first round in both 2018 and 2019 and playing yet again in a single-elimination contest this season, the Lynx no longer have to worry about a single-elimination series from here on out as they advance to the best-of-five semifinal round to continue their pursuit of a WNBA title.
“Every team we play, it doesn’t matter about seeding anymore. Everyone is going to play hard and leave it on the floor,” Sims said. “They are going to give everything they have because they don’t want to go home. … I’m happy that we’re moving on, and we’re in the semifinals.”
NO. 7 CONNECTICUT SUN 73, NO. 3 LOS ANGELES Sparks 59
In the second half of the doubleheader on Thursday in the pair of second-round matchups, the seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun battled the third-seeded Los Angeles Sparks for a trip to the semifinals on the line.
Los Angeles claimed the No. 3 seed in the playoffs after a 15-7 effort during the regular season, finishing three games back of one of the top two seeds. The Sparks grabbed the third seed for the second straight postseason, having advanced as far as the semifinals a year ago before losing to Connecticut 3-0 in the best-of-five series.
Connecticut was able to grab one of the final playoff spots this season a year after earning the No. 2 seed and eventually falling to the top-seeded Washington Mystics 3-2 in the WNBA Finals.
In Thursday’s game, the Sun continued their underdog run in the postseason, jumping out in front of the Sparks early on to come away with a 73-59 win and advance to the semifinal round for the second straight year. Alyssa Thomas had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists and DeWanna Bonner had 17 points, 13 rebounds and five assists to lead the way for Connecticut in the win. Candace Parker had 22 points, 14 rebounds and five assists for Los Angeles, which had its season come to an end.
Connecticut will take on No. 1 Las Vegas Aces in the best-of-five semifinal round beginning on Sunday at noon CT on ESPN.
Thursday night’s game between Los Angeles and Connecticut featured many familiar faces to Minnesota fans and Lynx fans specifically.
For the Sparks, they have former Lynx great Seimone Augustus in her first year with Los Angeles after playing with Minnesota for her first 14 WNBA seasons. Reshanda Gray is also on the Sparks roster, a 2015 second-round draft pick of the Lynx who played in 10 games in Minnesota during the 2015 season. One final connection on Los Angeles is in the Sparks front office with assistant general manager Michael Fischer, who used to work at the University of Minnesota before joining the WNBA ranks.
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.
During the 2020 regular season, Minnesota swept Connecticut and split the series against Los Angeles 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 L.A. 97-81 on Aug. 9, before evening the series with a 96-78 win on Aug. 31.
Below is the schedule breakdown of the rest of the WNBA Playoffs, including both the semifinal and championship rounds.
SEMIFINAL ROUND (best-of-five series):
(All times central time)
Game 1 — Sunday, 12 p.m. (ESPN) and 2 p.m. (ABC)
Game 2 — Tuesday, 5 p.m. (ESPN2) and 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 3 — Thursday, Sept. 24, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2) and 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 4 (if necessary) — Sunday, Sept. 27, 12 p.m. (ESPN) and 2 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5 (if necessary) — Tuesday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m. (ESPN2) and 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
WNBA Finals (Best-Of-Five 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)