The Lynx didn't beat Seattle, they survived. Lauren Jackson missed a short jumper with 1.2 seconds left, and so a 73-72 lead held up for Minnesota.
Karma seemed to be with the Storm. Jackson made a 3 at the buzzer in regulation in game 2, leading to a Seattle win in 2OT. And tonight Tanisha Wright made a 3 at the 1st halftime buzzer, getting Seattle within 36-35. Then Smith hit another 3 at the 3rd quarter buzzer to get Seattle within 56-55.
Seattle finally caught up at 60 and 62 but Rebekah Brunson scored 4 straight baskets, 3 off of the offensive boards, and 5 altogether in the 4th period. Then Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Taj McWilliams-Franklin each scored to get the Lynx to 73. It was just enough as Seattle ran out of magic at the end.
On September 1, I wrote that the Lynx would repeat as WNBA champion IF:
1. If they tightened up their inside defense. They did a decent job against 3-time WNBA MVP Lauren Jackson of Seattle overall though Jackson scored a couple of very very big buckets at crunch time. Candace Parker of L.A. and then 2012 league MVP Tina Charles (if the Lynx get to the finals) will be vastly tougher opponents so watch out! Inside Defense Grade (so far in the playoffs): C.
2. If they don't get torched at 3-ball. Seattle outscored the Lynx from 34-point land 66-33 (22 3s to 11). The Storm made 22-of-61 (365) while the Lynx made 11-of-35 (31%). And Seattle, of course, seemed to hit a big 3 every time it was really needed. 3-Ball Grade: C-.
3. If Lindsay Whalen picks it up. I noted that potential playoff opponents Becky Hammon, Kara Lawson and Kristi Tolliver had outplayed her. But she did pick it up during September.
But Seattle's Sue Bird showed why she and not Lindsay was the starting point guard for the U.S. Olympians in this sseries. Bird outscored Whalen by an average of 16-12 per game, out-assisted her 7-5 and had 2 steals per game to Lindsay's 1. Bird shot 44 percent from the field, Lindsay 27 percent.
In games 2 and 3 Bird scored 20 ppg to Lindsay's 8. In game 3 it was 19-6, and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve played Lindsay just 25 minutes and reach down into her bench to give Candice Wiggins 12 minutes and even Erin Thorn 3, looking for some impact at the "1."
Granted, Bird is "the best point guard on the planet," according to Geno Auriemma, but Kristi Tolliver is a lot quicker and has given Lindsay fits during the regular season. Lindsay's Grade: C.
4. If Maya Moore picks it up. This is a matter of Maya asserting herself like she did in the Olympics, no longer deferring to Augustus. And she has, overtaking Seimone as the Lynx leading scorer, 16.6 ppg to 16.5. Against Seattle (3 games) Moore pretty much hit her average with 16 ppg on 40 percent shooting, plus 6 boards and 3 assists. Seimone really picked it up, scoring 20 ppg on 46 percent shooting, with 6 boards and 2 steals. Maya's Grade: B.
5. If they do the positive things they've done all year. That is, if they out-shoot their opponents 49-39 percent and out-rebound them 37-31. Against the Storm they got out-shot 41-40 percent but out-rebounded Seattle 37-34. Grade: B-.
Bottom line, they played B- ball against Seattle and managed to win. Against the L.A. Sparks, they've got to pick it up: 1) Inside D vs. Parker. 2) Lindsay is going to have to pick it up against Tolliver. 3) Out-shoot and out-rebound the Sparks. Do these things at least at a B+ level and the Lynx win. Continue at a B- level and the Lynx lose. It's that simple.