It may have taken place two days after it was originally scheduled, but the Minnesota Lynx and the Seattle Storm finally tipped off in Game 1 of the semifinal round of the WNBA Playoffs on Tuesday night.
On Sunday afternoon nearing the end of Game 1 of the other semifinals series between the Connecticut Sun and Las Vegas Aces, the fourth-seeded Lynx and the second-seeded Storm had their game called off right before tip-off due to inconclusive COVID-19 test results with three Seattle players.
That resulted in the Game 1 contest between the two teams being pushed back to Tuesday, with the best-of-5 series finally getting underway at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. after those inconclusive test results were followed by multiple negative results.
“When (WNBA Commissioner) Cathy (Engelbert) came to us and said this was what she thought was best to do based on the science and the information they got, we said ‘OK, we’ll go celebrate Cheryl’s birthday and get ready for the game on Tuesday,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve, whose birthday was on Sunday, said before the game Tuesday. “There was a fair amount of disappointment because we were ready and prepared.”
After a 48-hour span of uncertainty, both Minnesota and Seattle ultimately returned to the floor to continue postseason play, with the Lynx playing in their second game of the playoffs while the Storm were playing for the first time this postseason after a double-bye.
In the game, Minnesota got off to a hot start following the few extra days rest, even without having Sylvia Fowles in the game, who was a late scratch because of her lingering calf injury.
After the Storm battled back to take a double-digit lead in the second half, the Lynx went on a fourth-quarter run to make it a game late in the final frame. Minnesota held a one-point advantage with just under two minutes left to play and tied the contest at 86-86 with 14.8 seconds remaining, but Alysha Clark‘s putback as time expired lifted Seattle to a thrilling 88-86 season-opening victory.
“We wanted to put ourselves in a position with five minutes to go. Players from there made plays, and I thought both teams had players making plays,” Reeve said after the game. “I enjoyed watching our team making plays, competing and executing. Seattle just made one more play.”
Seattle was led by Jewell Loyd with 25 points, six rebounds and four assists, and Breanna Stewart with 21 points and 10 rebounds. The Storm were red-hot from the field in the opening half, tallying a total of 10 first-half threes, and ended the game shooting 44.3 percent from the field.
The Lynx, who made 14 threes and shot 43.1 percent from the field, were led by Napheesa Collier with 25 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and three assists, Odyssey Sims with 19 points and five assists, Bridget Carleton with 14 points and four assists and Damiris Dantas with 11 points, eight rebounds and four steals.
“We did everything we could have. We just needed one more rebound and they made one more play than us,” Collier said. “We were right there the whole time and were ahead at some points, so I think we’re excited for the next game.”
Now down one game early on in the series, Minnesota immediately turns its focus Thursday night’s Game 2 back at IMG Academy. The Lynx and Storm will tip the second game off at 6:30 p.m. (CT) Thursday on ESPN2.
“That’s the fun of a series. You have Game 1 in the books and we go back and study the video,” Reeve said. “We’re here to win. Seattle is going to have to play well to win.”
NO. 7 CONNECTICUT SUN 1, NO. 1 LAS VEGAS ACES 1
GAME 1: SUN 87, ACES 62
Game 2: Aces 83, SUN 75
After the seventh-seeded Connecticut Sun came out with a convincing victory in Game 1 of the best-of-5 semifinals series against the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces on Sunday afternoon, the best team in the league during the regular season looked to bounce back to even the series in Game 2 on Tuesday night.
The Aces ended up bouncing back behind a dominant fourth quarter, taking Game 2 by a score of 83-75 to even the series back at 1-1.
Las Vegas claimed the top spot in the playoffs after an 18-4 effort during the regular season, ending the year on a six-game winning streak. 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 highlighted by taking down No. 6 Chicago in the first round and No. 3 Los Angeles in the second round. That trend has continued for the most part here in the semifinal round.
In Tuesday’s Game 2, an early-game injury to Sun forward Alyssa Thomas presented the Aces with an opportunity to take the game and avoid falling behind 0-2 in the best-of-5 series. Behind 2020 MVP A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas stormed back to win the game. She finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks to lead the charge of a comeback. Without Thomas, the Sun were led by DeWanna Bonner with 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists and Briann January with 20 points and four rebounds.
The two teams will return to action in Game 3 on Thursday with a chance to take a lead in the series on the line. The game will begin at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN2.
The other semifinals series between Connecticut and Las Vegas have plenty of 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-FIVE 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 — Thursday: Minnesota vs. Seattle, 6:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 3 — Thursday: Las Vegas vs. Connecticut, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Dates and start times for Minnesota and Seattle’s Game 3 as well as Games 4 and 5 are TBD.
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)