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Oral History: Storm Wins Game 2 in 2OTs

Kevin Pelton, StormBasketball.com | Oct. 1, 2012

The stakes were clear entering Sunday's Game 2 at KeyArena: The Seattle Storm needed a win over the Minnesota Lynx to extend its season and force a deciding Game 3 in this Western Conference Semifinals matchup between the last two WNBA champions. With ESPN on hand, observers expected a good game. They didn't know they would be treated to an instant classic - one of the longest games in WNBA postseason history, and also one of the most dramatic.

StormBasketball.com looks back on this epic tilt between two talented, experienced teams in the words of the players and coaches who were involved in it.

Minnesota Takes Control

Game 2 did not begin the way the Storm hoped. After the team led 18-15 early, the visiting Lynx went on a 16-0 run to take a lead as large as 13 points early in the second quarter.

Head Coach Brian Agler: For us to play well we have to defend. We weren't getting breaks, they were hitting shots and we weren't playing quite as gritty at the defensive end. Fortunately, we did have a way to stay in the game. I was concerned at that time because they have the ability to do that. They scored a lot more points in that first quarter than we wanted to give up.

Storm Guard Sue Bird: Minnesota has the kind of talent that their offense will sometimes beat your defense no matter how you play. They were just hitting shots. They were hitting tough shots, and it seemed like they couldn't miss at that point in the game. But everybody who plays basketball knows it's a game of runs. And that was their run and we knew we were going to make ours. I'm really proud of everyone for sticking to that. At that point it could have been easy to put your head down and let them go up 20 or 25 points, but we didn't. We never hung our heads and we knew we would have an opportunity. We just knew it and hung in there.

Storm Guard Tanisha Wright: We just needed to stick with it and not give up big gaps going into the half. With this kind of team, you want to keep the game close if you're not hitting and things aren't going your way. It wasn't going our way at the end of the first half. We wanted to keep the game close and make a run at the end. We did a good job of keeping it close and giving ourselves the opportunity to come out in the second half.


Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

Tough Night for Jackson

The Storm answered Minnesota's run with a 15-3 surge, and by halftime the margin was just one point. However, the Storm struggled coming out of the locker room as the Lynx extended the lead. Star Lauren Jackson couldn't get anything going offensively, but she helped the Storm with her rebounding and defense.

Agler: Everybody is going to have tough shooting nights. Lauren is a great player and she is still getting her rhythm with our team a little bit. She missed some shots around the basket, but I will say this, they are congesting her. There is a lot of physicality going on around the basket and I don't know if Lauren adapted real well to that.

Storm Center Lauren Jackson: In my head, I was like, 'If I'm not going to score, I need to set screens and do other things.' I felt like I did my job. I missed too many shots.


Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

Storm Trails Late

The Storm's only lead in the second half was 65-63 on a Camille Little layup with 3:10 remaining in regulation. The Storm was scoreless for nearly three minutes, and Minnesota tied the game and then went ahead on a pair of Rebekkah Brunson putbacks. With time running out, the Storm was forced to foul.

Bird: I knew in regulation being down four, under a minute, that it can be tough. It never feels good. It basically becomes us having to make shots and hoping they miss their shots.

Jackson Hits the Big Shot

When the Storm was called for a dead-ball foul on the Lynx's inbound pass, things looked dire. Minnesota, already up two, would get a free throw plus the ball back, meaning Minnesota could have gone up as many as five. But Seimone Augustus missed the free throw, and a Bird score on the other end got the storm back within two points. The team needed Taj McWilliams-Franklin to split to have a chance, and she obliged, making her first shot but missing the second. Shekinna Stricklen pulled down the rebound with 9.9 seconds left in a three-point play. Out of timeouts, the Storm had to call a play in the previous huddle.

Agler: At the timeout we drew something up. The looks that we wanted to get were Sue and then Lauren. Fortunately, Sue made a good read and Lauren didn't hesitate and put up the shot.

Bird: We knew exactly what we wanted to do. He drew up a play that we could kind of just run into. We weren't going to have a lot of time and we didn't have any timeouts. We kind of had to run into our play and go from there. It was basically just a handoff into a pick-and-roll. Once I dribbled over and saw the defense shift, there was Lauren wide open.


Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

The shot Jackson got was so open that the photo shows Bird celebrating and Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve despairing before the ball even reached the basket.

Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve: We needed to make that play and we didn't make that play. Any time Jackson is involved in screen, you switch. And we failed to switch.

Bird: I knew it was in. She was so wide open. I just knew it was in.

Indeed, Jackson swished the tying three. At first, she didn't realize the magnitude of what she had done.

Jackson: I thought we were four down. I had no idea what was going until I looked at the clock and saw, 'Oh, we're going into overtime.'

Considering I missed every other shot I took in the game, I was just happy it went in.

Minnesota Guard Seimone Augustus: She's one of the world's best players. That's what we expect. Even though she had a rough offensive night, when it's time to put the game on the line, of course they're going to put it in their hands. She hit a great shot tonight to force overtime.

The shot gave the Storm new life heading into overtime.

Bird: Oh it was huge. I think at that point we were excited to have extended the game. Thirty seconds prior we were down four. I'm sure for Minnesota - we've all been on the other side - that after a shot like that is made it's tough to follow.

Wright: It let us know this is winnable. We've got it in our grasp. We just need to take it now.

The First Overtime

The Storm would have to win the game without Jackson, who picked up two fouls in overtime and fouled out with 40.2 seconds remaining.

Jackson: I almost had a tear initially, but I didn't. I caught my composure. Then when we went into double-overtime, I just got really excited. I was happy. It was hard watching it, but it's not like I could go back in; I couldn't do anything.


Neil Enns/Storm Photos

Again, the Storm got a crucial three-pointer. This time it was Wright who tied the score at 75-all with 23.9 seconds remaining in the overtime session.

Reeve: We made a bonehead play.


Neil Enns/Storm Photos

Minnesota got the last shot of the extra period. The Lynx put the ball in the hands of Augustus, who scored 14 points in the third quarter alone but was stifled thereafter. Wright matched up with Minnesota's star on the most crucial defensive possession of the game.

Agler: Seimone is a big-time one-on-one player, there is no question. She might be the best in our league with the ability of creating separation from the defender and getting her shots off. Tanisha was on her and then we had Katie (Smith) on her for a while. Then we put Camille (Little) on her for a while. I thought Camille, maybe the size, along with the fatigue of the game may have helped us at that time from her hitting some shots. But I thought all three really fought hard.

Bird: Actually, Katie called that they might just put the ball in Seimone's hands and let her go one-on-one, and you can't blame them for that. She had a terrific game. She's the kind of player that it doesn't really matter who's guarding her, she can get her shot off. I think T did a great job guarding her, just trying to make it a tough shot, and obviously it was. You don't see Seimone airball shots very often. T did a great job.

Storm Forward Camille Little: T and Katie do a great job guarding Seimone. She's tough to guard, she hits tough shots, but I thought we adjusted well. T was there and made her take a tough shot.

The ball bounced out off a Storm player, giving the Lynx a chance at a lob to Brunson with 1.4 seconds on the clock.

Bird: I was on the bench for that. I could see the minute the inbounder threw it up that it was high and back. It was going to be really difficult for Brunson to catch it and put it up. We were just lucky time was on our side for that one.

The Second Overtime

With players on both sides surpassing 40 minutes of action, the two exhausted teams headed to a second overtime - just the third multi-OT game in WNBA playoff history.

Bird: At that point we felt as if we were doing the things we needed to do to win the game. We had a pretty good scheme on defense that seemed to be working. We still had to do things like take care of their offensive rebounds and not let them get second-chance points. And on the flip side, just take care of the ball. The times that we struggled offensively were when we weren't really on the same page. I think in the second overtime we kind of narrowed our calls down to two or three things, and just to be honest, ran the (heck) out of them and that's kind of how it went. I think we're a better team when we're like that.


Neil Enns/Storm Photos

WNBA all-time leading scorer Tina Thompson, in the game because Jackson had fouled out, got the Storm started well with an early three-pointer. Thompson finished a rebound shy of a double-double.

Jackson: Tina's a vet and she did her thing. She was great.

Bird followed with another three, and for the first time all game, the Storm had some breathing room.

Bird: All of a sudden I looked up and there was only a minute and a half left. It went quick. To have the lead and to force them into some really tough shots, I thought that was the key for us. Finally on offense, we were able to knock down some shots.


Neil Enns/Storm Photos

Storm Wins in Epic Fashion

The final 86-79 margin was actually the Storm's largest lead of the night. Thanks to tough defense and timely scores, the Storm was able to outlast Minnesota.

Bird: I think both teams really left it out there on the court. It was definitely a grind-out kind of game. It was tough mentally and physically, but in those moments it's about digging deep. I think we were able to do that.

Wright: I am completely exhausted.

The Storm could feed off support from an enthusiastic home crowd that was a major factor throughout the game. Fans at KeyArena stood nearly the entirety of the fourth quarter and the overtimes.

Wright: It was huge. Anytime you're in an atmosphere like this, the energy we can soak up from the crowd really makes a big difference. They stayed behind us throughout the end of regulation and then the first and second overtimes. We appreciate them being out there.

Reeve: The Key is a tough place to play as it is with nothing at stake and then now you add to it that it's win or go fishing. You fully expect that they're going to give their best effort. They clearly didn't want their season to end.


Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty Images

At its most basic level, the win extended the Storm's season and gave the team an opportunity to play a deciding Game 3 Tuesday in Minnesota. More than that, though, the game was also an unforgettable night that immediately entered Storm lore as one of the great wins in franchise history.

Jackson: It's a big win for us. A big win. I'm just proud of everyone. I think everybody had an awesome effort.

ESPN Commentator Rebecca Lobo: One of the best playoff games I've watched courtside.

Bird: Obviously, it was an incredible game and for us a great win. After the game was over and I went home, I had tons of text messages and phone calls from people saying how much fun it was to watch. So it was cool to be part of that. I feel like any time a game is close people respond like that. The last time was maybe in 2010 when we were on that great run at the end. For some reason this one definitely brought a lot of people out from the woodwork.

I think it was probably both the length and how, for us, every time we needed to hit a big shot we did. I think people, especially those that were cheering for the Storm, had an anxious feeling every time those moments presented themselves, wanting the Storm to score. I'm sure Minnesota fans that were watching wanted us to miss as bad, so that's another cause of anxiety. I just think people really got into the game. Big shots are being made left and right.

Little: I always felt like we were playing well enough to win this game tonight. It's not one of those things you can get overly excited about because it's not over. You can't dwell on this. We got the win tonight - be happy about that, but tomorrow we've got to head to Minnesota to try to get another one.

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