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Lynx Knock Storm Out of Playoffs, 58-55

September 22, 2013

The final points of Tina Thompson’s storied career gave the Seattle Storm their final points of the season. It also gave them a chance to pull out a playoff victory.

But 80 seconds later, it wasn’t quite enough to take down the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA Western Conference semifinals.

The Lynx scored the final four points of the game on Sunday afternoon, then denied the Storm on their last three trips downcourt to secure a 58-55 victory in the Tacoma Dome and complete a two-game sweep in the best-of-3 series.

Thompson finished with 13 points in her last professional game, including a driving lay-in with 1:20 left that gave Seattle a 55-54 lead. Tanisha Wright led the Storm with16, and Camille Little added 14.

“We gave as much as we possibly could have to put ourselves in position to win,” said Thompson, who also had a team-high nine rebounds to wind up her 17 years in the league. “I think what we did today was above most expectations of those who tuned in.”

Indeed, while Minnesota won all six games from the Storm in 2013, Sunday’s was by far the most competitive from start to finish. The first five, including Friday’s 80-64 result in the series opener at Minneapolis, were decided by an average of 17 points.

“We did a much better job of playing our way,” Wright said. “To hold them under 60 points is something big for us, and it’s the way we like to play basketball. We just didn’t have any die in us. From beginning to end, no matter what was happening, we fought.”

Maya Moore poured in 22 points for the Lynx, who will face either Los Angeles or Phoenix in the conference finals. But Seimone Augustus got the last of her 10 points on a foul line jumper from the right of the lane with 25.4 seconds left to put the Lynx on top by one at 56-55. Then Rebekkah Brunson pumped in last two of her 15 on a pair of free throws with 11.6 seconds left for a 58-55 Minnesota lead.

The Storm had two more tries downcourt. But a Noelle Quinn lay-up fell short, and then a 3-pointer by Thompson from 23 feet straight away didn’t get off before the final buzzer.

“You can always say you could have made a shot or could have made a free throw or could have executed better on a possession. But we didn’t,” Thompson said. “The thing that we absolutely know is we left everything out there. … When you play with everything that you have, you can sleep at night.”

ONE LAST SURGE

The Lynx, who rarely led by less than double digits through the four regular-season games, never led by more than seven on Sunday. That’s what the margin was at 51-44 with 5:04 left in the game when the Storm began their run.

Camille Little started it with a putback. Then Alysha Clark, after saving a loose rebound on the sideline, found Wright downcourt for a driving lay-in. Thompson made a short one from the right of the hoop, and Seattle was down just 51-50 with 3:18 still remaining.

Brunson made a traditional three-point play at the 2:55 mark, pushing the Lynx’ lead back to four at 54-50. Seattle answered with a three-pointer by Quinn at 1:57, and then Thompson’s wide-open drive to the hoop from the right side, putting the Storm on top, 55-54 at 1:20.

Seattle regained possession with1:04 showing when Lindsay Whalen was whistled for an offensive foul. But the Storm were unable to get a shot off before the 24-second clock expired, and the Lynx had it back with 40 seconds to go, setting the stage for Augustus’ go-ahead basket.

The Storm came down without calling a timeout, having already designed a play during the previous timeout. But a pass from Wright toward the basket bounced off the backboard, Brunson came up with the loose ball and was fouled, then hit the two ensuing free throws.

“We had a play drawn up in case we got it on the run and didn’t want to have to reset,” Storm coach Brian Agler said. “Against good defensive teams like Minnesota, sometimes when you call a timeout, it gives them a chance to get organized defensively.”

Both teams kept each other to their lowest offensive outputs of the season. Seattle’s previous low was 56; Minnesota’s was 59.

“I thought the game was played the way we wanted to play,” Agler said. “The score was where we wanted it. We felt like we played our best defensive game (against the Lynx). Neither team shot the ball exceptionally well (the Storm hit 23 of 55 for 41.8 percent; the Lynx were just 23 of 61 for 37.7 percent). But for us, it was important to keep them down.

“They hit some big shots. But we hung in there and gave ourselves an opportunity.”

As they did on Friday night, the Storm went toe to toe with the Lynx through the first 20 minutes. The game was tied eight times, including 28-28 at the half, and the lead changed hands three times. By the final buzzer, the score had been deadlocked eight times, with six lead changes.

Seattle kept Minnesota without a point through the first 5:03 of the second quarter, forcing the Lynx into seven straight missed shots. The Storm climbed into a 20-20 tie, and eventually took a 28-24 lead on a jumper from the right corner by Tina Thompson, and a pair of free throws from Camille Little.

Minnesota forged the halftime tie by scoring the last four points of the quarter, including a foul-line jumper by Janel McCarville that bounced in at the buzzer.

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