Entering Sunday afternoon’s Game 3 of the WNBA semifinals against the Seattle Storm, the Minnesota Lynx found themselves in a 0-2 hole in the best-of-5 series. Unfortunately for the Lynx (4th seed), No. 2 Seattle jumped all over Minnesota from the opening tip-off to take the game 92-71 and advance, ending Minnesota’s season for the second straight year. They will play either the No. 7 Connecticut Sun or the No. 1 Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Finals.
“We have a lot to be proud of. Nobody thought we would get past the Seattle Storm,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “We believed we could be competitive and put ourselves in a position to win. … (Sunday’s) game was just disappointing in so many ways.”
Seattle showed why it is a favorite to claim the WNBA title this season throughout the entire series against Minnesota.
The Lynx fell behind from the opening minutes of Game 3, trailing by 46-32 at halftime and not being able to put much together in the second half to climb back into the contest. They ended up narrowing things down to nine points in the third quarter, but that was immediately followed by a Seattle run that pushed the game back out of reach.
“We can be really, really good. We proved a lot of people wrong this year,” Napheesa Collier said. “I also learned throughout the season just how much I love my teammates and how important it is to have chemistry. … I can’t wait to get back to it next year.”
Veterans Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird were too much for the Lynx to handle in Game 3, with Stewart tallying a game-best 31 points, seven assists and six rebounds and Bird adding 16 points and nine assists for the Storm.
Four Minnesota players finished in double-figures in the game, and the team shot just 38.2 percent from the field while turning the ball over 17 times. Collier had 22 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks, Damiris Dantas added 16 points, seven rebounds and four assists, Crystal Dangerfield tallied 16 points and five rebounds and Odyssey Sims finished with 10 points, four assists and four rebounds.
“I love this team. For me, this is my family,” Dantas said after the game. “I’m sad because we lost, but I’m happy with the season.”
Although the season ends in disappointment for Minnesota, it has a lot to take away from this successful 2020 campaign. From grabbing the No. 4 seed, to advancing as far as the semifinals for the first time since 2017. The future is bright for the Lynx, regardless of the outcome this season.
“I wish we would have ended differently. It doesn’t take away from (what we accomplished),” Reeve said. “This is a special season that we shared with players. This is a special group who did special things together.”
NO. 1 LAS VEGAS ACES 2, NO. 7 CONNECTICUT SUN 2
GAME 1: SUN 87, ACES 62
GAME 2: ACES 83, SUN 75
GAME 3: SUN 77, ACES 68
Game 4: aces 84, sun 75
In the other semifinals series between Connecticut and Las Vegas, the Sun came into Sunday’s Game 4 with a chance to reach the WNBA Finals for the second straight season.
The Aces, on the other hand, were trying to avoid elimination and force a winner-take-all Game 5 and keep their season alive in the bubble.
In the series to this point, the Sun have looked impressive against the top-ranked Aces, taking Games 1 and 3 with Las Vegas notching the first win of the series in Game 2. On Sunday in Game 4, the back-and-forth in the series continued with the Aces forcing a winner-take-all Game 5.
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 Sunday’s Game 4, Las Vegas used a strong second-half showing to avoid elimination with an 84-75 win and force a Game 5 of the series with a trip to the WNBA Finals on the line. To lead the Aces, Angel McCoughtry had 29 points, six assists and five rebounds, A’ja Wilson had 18 points, 13 rebounds and four assists and former Lynx guard Danielle Robinson added 18 points, five rebounds and four assists. Jasmine Thomas had 25 points and six assists and Alyssa Thomas tallied 15 points and eight rebounds for Connecticut in the loss.
The two teams will return to action in a winner-take-all Game 5 on Tuesday, with Connecticut looking to advance to the Finals for the second straight year and Las Vegas avoiding to become the first No. 1 seed to not reach the Finals since the new playoff format began.
The series between Connecticut and Las Vegas feature a few different Lynx connections worth pointing out.
For Las Vegas, there are a pair of former Lynx players on the roster. 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 — Seattle 92, Minnesota 71
Game 4 — Las Vegas 84, Connecticut 75
Game 5 — Tuesday: Connecticut vs. Las Vegas, TBD
WNBA FINALS (BEST-OF-5 SERIES):
(ALL TIMES CENTRAL TIME)
Game 1 — Friday, Oct. 2: Seattle vs. TBD, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 2 — Sunday, Oct. 4: Seattle vs. TBD, 2 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3 — Tuesday, Oct. 6: Seattle vs. TBD, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Game 4 (if necessary) — Thursday, Oct. 8: Seattle vs. TBD, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Game 5 (if necessary) — Sunday, Oct. 11: Seattle vs. TBD, 2 p.m. (ABC)