The Lynx held their collective breath until Seattle's last-second shot missed, allowing them to advance.
Updated: October 3, 2012 - 6:39 AM
Goodbye, Seattle. Hello, Los Angeles.
The Lynx kept their quest for a repeat WNBA title alive Tuesday night, edging Seattle 73-72 at Target Center in the deciding game of their best-of-three, first-round playoff series.
Next the Lynx, who are 18-1 at home counting two victories over the Storm in the playoffs, will play the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday in the first game of the Western Conference finals.
To advance, though, the Lynx had to sweat out the last seconds. Lauren Jackson, Seattle's 6-6 Australian center and the three-time WNBA MVP, put up an 11-foot jumper from the baseline at the buzzer.
The shot hit the side of the rim and bounced away.
"We knew exactly the play they were going to run," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "It was really scary. I thought we forced her into a tough shot. [It was] not the situation we want to be in, but we fought. What a game of runs."
Jackson, who didn't join the Storm this season until after the London Olympics ended and was hampered by a hamstring injury in recent weeks, finished 1-for-7 from the field and scored only nine points.
"She makes those turnaround jumpers all the time," said Storm point guard Sue Bird, who led her team with 19 points. "When it left her hand, I was hopeful."
There were seven lead changes and six ties in this game, which entertained an announced crowd of 8,023.
Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson, who had 16 points and nine rebounds and guarded Jackson most of the game, gave the Lynx the lead for good with a layup with four minutes left.
The 6-2 Brunson had 10 points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter.
"Rebekkah was huge," Reeve said. "What I told her is that we knew Rebekkah was going to be available for jump shots. And boy, she had two in a row. The MVP of the series for us clearly is Rebekkah Brunson."
Brunson had double- doubles in the first two games and missed a third by one rebound. She scored the first eight points for the Lynx in the fourth quarter, coming on 14- and 17-foot jumpers and two offensive rebounds.
"I have a lot of respect for Rebekkah," Seattle coach Brian Agler said. "There was a point in the course of this game that she hit multiple jump shots and still played to her main strength which is rebounding, and giving them second opportunities."
Told of her coach's MVP comment, Brunson said: "We played an amazing three games together. We all got it done."
Especially in Game 3.
Seimone Augustus scored a team-high 21 points and Maya Moore 20. Moore had 10 in the first quarter and seven in the second. Augustus took over the third quarter for the second game in a row, scoring 12 points.
"It makes it hard for other teams to play us when we share ball and take turns who is getting shots," Reeve said.
Augustus said she just tried being more aggressive after halftime. And she kept working hard.
"I lost two dreds tonight," she said to a laughing media.
Bird, who along with Jackson led Seattle to WNBA titles in 2004 and '10, said the fourth-seeded Storm peaked at the right time, but it was hard to overcome having to play two road games in the series.
"You saw in this series why [the home court] is so important," she said. "[The Lynx] are tough. They have a certain style. They really encourage you to shoot the outside shot. They encourage you shoot, so they can get out and run."
Seattle kept the Lynx's running to a minimum. That's why Reeve and her players are looking forward to playing the Sparks.
"You are talking about an exact opposite series," Reeve said. "L.A. hangs their hat on offense. I am looking forward to playing a team that does not grind it out so much."
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