The Minnesota Lynx were arguably one play short in Game 1 of their WNBA semifinal series against the Seattle Storm, giving them hope they can square the series when it resumes Thursday night in the "wubble" in Florida.
The Lynx lost 88-86 on Tuesday night in a tightly contested series opener, erasing a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter, only to fall on a buzzer-beating putback by Alysha Clark. But coach Cheryl Reeve and her players were able to take some positives from the defeat.
Minnesota committed only nine turnovers ' a stark improvement from the 48 it had in the two regular-season losses to Seattle. The Lynx also matched the Storm 3-pointer for 3-pointer, actually hitting one more in Game 1 (14-13). They had some trouble on the boards as veteran center Sylvia Fowles was unable to play due to her calf injury, but Napheesa Collier and Damaris Dantas held their own in the frontcourt with a combined 36 points and 17 rebounds.
"Honestly, there's nothing to hang our head about," guard Odyssey Sims told the team's official website. "We just gotta rebound. It came down to the last possession, it could have easily gone the other way and they could be feeling like we feel."
One player the Lynx are hoping to get more from is Crystal Dangerfield. The WNBA Rookie of the Year had six assists but was held to four points ' well off her team-leading 16.2 per game ' on 2-of-8 shooting while missing all three of her 3-point attempts.
"[Collier] needs someone to help her," Reeve told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "We got it from Odyssey. If we get it from someone like Crystal it would be really helpful. We certainly expected the pressure. It's what Seattle does. I think we have a lot of good things on video for [Dangerfield], and we can show her ways she can be more impactful."
For the Storm, there was shaking off the rust of a nine-day layoff that had two days added to it because a series of COVID-19 tests came back inconclusive prior to Game 1. MVP runner-up Breanna Stewart and veteran point guard Sue Bird, both of whom sat out the season finale against Las Vegas that cost Seattle the No. 1 seed, made impacts on their return ' Stewart finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds while Bird contributed 11 points and eight assists.
"This group of players is a mature group with some great leaders," Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg told the Seattle Times. "They understand that what we're going through is a historic situation. You have to be able to be flexible, to adapt and stay in the moment and move on from whatever is thrown at you."
While Stewart and Collier played to a virtual stalemate, Seattle's other starters stepped up to make the difference in Game 1. Jewel Loyd scored 25 points, Natasha Howard had 10, and Clark's buzzer-beater gave her 12 as the first five all finished in double figures.
"[Clark is] always doing the little things, getting open, getting rebounds, and obviously tonight grabbing rebounds for a putback," Loyd said of Clark to the team's official website. "She's constantly getting overlooked and she's the heart to this team."
Fowles' status is uncertain for this game, which means Seattle may be able to control the glass for a second straight game. The Storm, though, have proved their proficiency from long range all season, and their 13 3-pointers in Game 1 matched a postseason franchise record.