The start of the highly anticipated semifinals matchup between Minnesota and Seattle finally tipped off on Tuesday after being delayed on Sunday due to inconclusive COVID tests. While we had to wait an extra 48 hours for the best of five series to commence, the pushed-back game did not disappoint.
Game one was entertaining, and fast paced as both teams executed efficiently on both ends of the floor. It was tightly-contested throughout the evening and the victor was decided at the buzzer. With the game tied at 86, and only 14 seconds remaining, the Storm’s Sami Whitcomb drove into the lane and missed a layup. The rebound landed in the lap of Seattle forward Alysha Clark who laid it in as time expired and won the game for the Storm.
“Clark is a smart player, a willful player,” Cheryl Reeve said postgame. “We defended pretty hard but that’s one of the hardest rebounds to secure defensively when you get the penetration that Whitcomb got that collapsed everyone. We were all in there, there was a lot of people in there, but it’s such a hard one. Rebounding a missed layup. Clark’s trademark is being opportunistic in that way, outworking you, getting one more effort than her opponent. Obviously it was the difference in the game.”
Despite losing in heartbreaking fashion the Lynx don’t have much to be upset about. Minnesota went toe to toe with a juggernaut Storm squad that was the best team in the league for the majority of the summer. Seattle steamrolled Minnesota in both of their regular season matchups. Thankfully for the Lynx, this game was a totally different story.
Minnesota accomplished most of their high-level goals for this game. First of all they limited turnovers. Seattle is at their best when playing in the open court. They start five players who are incredibly dynamic offensively. The Storm are excellent at taking any transition advantage, making the right play and cashing in. For the most part, if you don’t turn it over against Seattle, you won’t get beaten as badly. Secondly the Lynx half court defense held their own against the extremely talented Storm. Aside from allowing their opponent to shoot 13-26 from three, Minnesota was effective in making things tough on Seattle. Finally, the Lynx hit open shots. Even without Sylvia Fowles Minnesota likes to play “inside-out” and when that ball came out, they buried the open looks. Also hot from three, the Lynx shot 14-31 from beyond the three point line and kept pace with Seattle.
Napheesa Collier was incandescent. She put the team on her back in only her third career playoff game. Doing most of her work in the second half Collier finished with 25 points, nine rebounds, six blocks, three assists and four three pointers. She became the first player in Lynx franchise history to record five blocks in a single quarter. Three of those blocks were administered within a span of 75 second to 2020 WNBA MVP runner-up Breanna Stewart. Collier is the most important player for the post-dynasty Lynx. To see her rise to the occasion in a high-level playoff game is further confirmation that she is among the league’s elite players and a cornerstone for the franchise moving forward.
.@PHEEsespieces did it ALL tonight!— WNBA (@WNBA) September 23, 2020
She dropped 25 PTS, 9 REB and a career-high 6 BLK #ATTPlayoffs #WatchMeWork | #BradentonArea pic.twitter.com/rwbQhoCaBO
After the game Reeve talked about the chess match nature of a playoff series and what that will mean for her best player.
“You know what’s next. In game two anything you had success with is going to come even harder. Same is true (for Seattle). That’s the fun of a series. You’ve got game one in the books and we go back and study the video and see what each team can take away that they weren’t happy with. In order for Phee to be successful she has to find even more ways to get it done. She has such a will about her, such an agility about her, if she plays like that we have a chance.”
Minnesota has shown that they do have a chance. This series could be a long one if the Lynx continue to take care of the ball while playing their typical elite defense. It hurts to play so well and not come away with the win, but with Reeve at the helm and veterans like Fowles and Odyssey Sims in the locker room Minnesota should understand that they have what it takes to hang with, and maybe even win a series against Seattle.
Crystal Dangerfield had her worst game of the season. Seattle put their best defender on her (Clark) and blitzed the pick and roll all night. Dangerfield had a hard time using her speed to break down the defense and never got into any sort of rhythm. It’s a huge opportunity for the rookie to watch some tape and be better in game two.
On the other hand Odyssey Sims played like someone who has experience in big games. She was solid on defense, made big shots and got to the free throw line when her team needed her. She finished with 19 points and five assists.
Minnesota has to do a better job closing out quarters. Seattle finished the first quarter 8-0, the second 9-0 and the third 10-5. Those type of quarter-closing runs make it harder from a momentum standpoint.
Seattle had a number of good performances but the best was from Jewell Loyd. She was money shooting the ball all night. Loyd hit four threes and scored 25 points on nine shots. Now THATS efficiency!
Game two is Thursday night. Time to make adjustments, tweak some things and face the same team again! Tip off is 6:30pm CT.
Watch: ESPN 2