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Insider Preview: Storm at Minnesota (Game 3)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
1-1 RECORD 1-1
78.0 PF 78.5
93.7 Off. Eff. 94.3
36.5 RPG 38.5
.505 Reb % .495

Storm at Minnesota (Game 3)
Tuesday, Oct. 2, 6:00 p.m.
Target Center
TV: ESPN2
Radio: 1090 AM

Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com


Through two games of their Western Conference Semifinal matchup, one point separates the Minnesota Lynx and the Seattle Storm. The Lynx won Game 1 by eight points, while the Storm's final advantage in Game 2 was seven points. Of course, there was no doubt how close the teams were on Sunday, when they needed two overtimes to decide a winner as the Storm survived. Now, the series shifts back to the Target Center in Minnesota for the deciding Game 3 - the eighth in franchise history and the fourth in the opening round during the last five seasons.

The deciding game of a basketball series is always unique in its intensity. Given the level at which both teams played at 50 minutes on Sunday night, just two days ago, it's hard to tell how much they will have left.

"We're both probably a little tired and we just have to bear down and mentally get through it," said Storm guard Sue Bird. "It will probably be more of a mental challenge out there than a physical one just to stay focused."

The two starting lineups played similar minutes in Game 2. Three of the Storm's starters played at least 41 minutes, while three of Minnesota's topped 42, with Rebekkah Brunson playing 39 minutes. On the Storm side, Lauren Jackson and Camille Little were held to minutes totals in the 30s by foul trouble, making them a bit fresher. Head Coach Brian Agler indicated he plans to go to his bench early tonight to help get his veterans some extra rest.

While both teams are dealing with nagging injuries, everyone should be available. The one concern was Lynx center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who fell hard on her tailbone and back when she was intentionally fouled at the end of Game 2. McWilliams-Franklin did not play in the extra sessions, but she was available if needed, and Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve told the Star Tribune Monday that McWilliams-Franklin will be ready to go tonight.

As usual, expect adjustments between the two games.

"We'll watch some film as they will," Agler said after Game 2, "and I'm sure both teams will adjust one way or the other."

For the Lynx, the goal will be generating more offense. The team scored just 20 points during the game's final 20 minutes (the fourth quarter and overtime). During the regular season, their worst performance in a half was 25 points. Late in the game, Brunson was the team's only consistent source of offense, often with putbacks. High-scoring wings Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore were quiet down the stretch, while Lindsay Whalen shot just 2-of-15 from the field during an atypical game.

The Storm would love to repeat that defensive performance.

"At this point, both teams know each other very well," said Bird. "Obviously, we'll expect some adjustments but at the same time we have to have the same mentality and focus defensively. Then, hopefully, we can generate some more offense. "

KEY MATCHUP
The matchup to watch may be in the paint, where Brunson battles Storm center Lauren Jackson. Keeping Brunson away from the offensive glass will be a key task for the Storm. She had seven of Minnesota's 12 offensive rebounds and frequently turned them into scores. On the other end, Jackson is due for a better shooting night after struggling during a 4-of-17 effort in Game 2. Despite the tough time, Jackson still made the game's biggest shot to tie the score and force overtime. Straight post-ups to Jackson have not been particularly effective because of the way the Lynx are crowding the paint, so look for the Storm to try to get Jackson the ball on the move tonight.
INJURIES

Storm - None.

Minnesota - None.

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