Although things got dicey toward the end of the game, the Lynx squeaked out the "W" Tuesday. With a 73-67 win over the Storm, Minnesota clinched Western Conference title. Forward Maya Moore led the team with 20 points, followed by Anna Cruz who tallied 15 points and dished out eight assists.
Tuesday marked the Lynx's final home game of the regular season, and it proved a high note to go out on. The win was Minnesota's 12th victory in a row vs. Seattle at the Target Center, and the Lynx now lead the season series 4-0. To wrap up the 2015 regular season, the team will face the Storm on the road Friday.
Turnovers again proved a problem to start the game, as the Lynx found themselves with seven in just the first quarter. However, the team's shooting in the first half made up for it. After shooting 65.5 percent through two quarters, Minnesota shot 43.5 percent on the evening and notched an impressive 25 assists.
Fowles hit back-to-back shots to give the Lynx an immediate 4-0 advantage, but Seattle answered. Both teams had incredibly strong first quarters offensively, and the Storm took an 18-14 lead to spur a timeout by head coach Cheryl Reeve. Following the timeout, Cruz helped get things going.
Cruuuuuuzin' . Could be a big night for Anna offensively. She's already got 8 on 3/3 shooting.— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) September 9, 2015
The game was one of runs, as both Seattle and Minnesota found scoring streaks. Cruz's spark, combined with a three-pointer from Tricia Liston, aided in a 9-0 run for the Lynx that gave them back control of the game.
"Coach says 'man down, man up," said Cruz after the game. She spoke in reference to playing a larger role in the absence of veteran guard Lindsay Whalen. "So I try to step up."
Reeve praised Cruz as well, saying the following:
"Cruz was the player of the game. I told her how proud our staff is of her. She's worked really, really hard on her shot [...] it's one of the most fulfilling things as a coach to see a player work so hard and then get into a game and not only find success but get really excited about it."
Seattle stormed back to start the second quarter, tying the game at 29, but the Target Center crowd and a combined effort from Moore and Fowles led the Lynx on yet another run. Fowles, who hadn't scored since her first pair of buckets, scored five straight points to help Minny regain its lead, and Moore drove for the and-1 play. The squad entered the locker room for halftime up 46-35, and that set a consistent tone.
The Lynx picked up where they left off following the break, and it seemed they had no intention of allowing Seattle to move back in.
However, things got pretty rocky when Reeve subbed in a handful of bench players with an 18-point Minnesota lead. Seattle made a couple of quick plays to gain momentum, and before the Lynx knew it, the Storm cut the deficit to just one point with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
"It's about as good as time as any to try to get some players some rest, being up 18," Reeve said. "Unfortunately, that group wasn't able to sustain the lead or keep it at arm's length."
Even after the starters came back in, the team had a tough time getting the energy back. Multiple players missed easy layups and shallow jump shot attempts, and Minnesota looked to Moore for an answer. Fortunately for the Lynx, she delivered.
A couple of Moore baskets kept Minnesota clinging to a lead, and an anxious Target Center crowd stayed on its feet during a series of officials reviews and timeouts. Finally, the Lynx walked away with the narrow win and clinched the Western Conference.
"First and foremost, I told my team 'congratulations' on accomplishing a major goal that we set out from the beginning of the season: to be the best in the West," Reeve said after her team pulled out the win. "We were able to check that off our list. Our players make it look easy [...] I think it just speaks to the leadership we have in a core group of captains."
Reeve also spoke about the obstacles of several trades and roster changes that have taken place over the past few months more so than in any previous season.
"The ability to keep our heads above water and still come out first, again, speaks to that leadership."
The Lynx will head to Seattle for a 10 p.m. (ET) tipoff to wrap up their regular season before starting the WNBA Playoffs.