Home court advantage has held serve through the first two games of the Western Conference Semi Finals series between the Minnesota Lynx and San Antonio Silver Stars. After hanging on and escaping with a 66-65 win in Game 1 of the series, the Lynx were outplayed Sunday in Game 2 at San Antonio. The series now shifts back to Target Center on Tuesday night, where the winner will advance to the Western Conference Finals versus the winner of the Seattle Storm/Phoenix Mercury series.
At 27-7, the Lynx finished a dominating 2011 regular season as the WNBA’s best team. In fact, they were a full six games better than the Indiana Fever, Connecticut Sun, and Seattle Storm; all of whom finished tied for second in the league, at 21-13. However, through two playoff games, the Lynx have been anything but dominating. Minnesota overcame thirteen turnovers and a 1-8 performance from downtown in Game 1. Rookie star, Maya Moore struggled from the field in her playoff debut. Moore shot just 4-12, including 0-3 from beyond the arc. The star of the game for the Lynx was PG Lindsay Whalen, who finished with 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals, including a crucial deflection that led to a steal with 0:03 left and sealed the game for Minnesota. With the score 66-65 and a chance to push the lead to three, the Lynx missed four straight free throws in a six second span. With 0:07 to play, Sophia Young grabbed the rebound off Rebekkah Brunson’s miss and the Silver Stars called a timeout to set up the potential go-ahead play. Fortunately for Minnesota, San Antonio never got a shot off, as Whalen tipped the inbounds pass, Maya Moore snatched the ball out of mid-air, and dribbled out the clock for the win.
In Game 2, Sunday afternoon, things didn’t go so smoothly for Whalen and the Lynx. Too many turnovers and poor shooting from long range finally caught up with Minnesota. After trailing by as many as eleven in the first half, the Lynx managed to cut the Silver Stars lead to 40-37 at halftime, on the shoulders of Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus. However, Minnesota would not get any closer than within one. A 13-0 San Antonio run blew the game open and ultimately forced a Game 3 on Tuesday night at Target Center in Minneapolis.
Game 3 may rely heavily on how the two veteran point guards fair. Lindsay Whalen and Becky Hammond were both instrumental in leading their respective squads into the playoffs and now they’ll have the opportunity to lead them to the Western Conference Finals. While she will no doubt be relied on to do some scoring, Whalen’s biggest factor on Tuesday will be setting up her dynamite teammates Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore. The two other keys for Minnesota; take care of the ball offensively and shoot a high percentage from behind the three-point line. Conversely, Hammond will need to score in order for the Silver Stars to be successful. If the Stars are going to pull off the upset, it will be because of Hammond’s three-point shooting, along with her ability to set up teammates Sophia Young, Jia Perkins, and rookie standout Danielle Adams. Target Center is sure to be rocking Tuesday night, as it was the last time it hosted a series deciding playoff game. Back in 2004, Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves knocked off Chris Webber and the Sacramento Kings 83-80 in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semi Finals. Target Center and Minnesota basketball fans everywhere have been waiting quite awhile for another night like that.