MINNEAPOLIS – The twisted look of disgust on Sue Bird’s face at the end – disgust with herself, mostly – said as much about what happened at the Target Center on Sunday night as the scoreboard.
The Storm trailed by 14 points just before halftime and 12 early in the third quarter, yet nearly beat the defending WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx for the second time in three days and the third time this season. But two critical Storm mistakes in the final 21 seconds, the second a rare poor inbounds by Bird, let the Lynx sneak away with a 74-69 victory.
Angel Robinson missed an open layup with 20.9 seconds to play that would have put the Storm ahead by one point. Instead, Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen sank two free throws with 15.3 seconds left to make it a three-point game.
Following a 20-second timeout, Bird, pressured by Minnesota’s Monica Wright, tossed a wild pass toward midcourt that Camille Little could not control.
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“It was just a miscue,” Bird said.
Wright grabbed the loose ball, and Maya Moore sank two foul shots with 11.9 seconds left. On the night Bird became the first player in WNBA history with 4,000 points, 2,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds, she couldn’t enjoy it.
“You tend to look at those small little situations because they’re at the end and they’re highlighted, but it wasn’t about that,” said Bird, who had 21 points and seven assists. “I think we really put ourselves in a hole early in the game. Trying to dig out of that takes a lot of energy. Then to finish the game and win takes even more. So if we don’t put ourselves in that hole, it could have been a different night.”
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve all but guaranteed a better effort after Friday night’s 81-71 loss, Minnesota’s second this season at KeyArena. Even without second-leading scorer Seimone Augustus, a late scratch with left knee bursitis, Reeve said before the game, “I would be shocked if you didn’t see a really focused and determined team.”
Though the Storm held WNBA scoring leader Moore to 14 points, nine below her average, center Janel McCarville repeatedly burned the Storm from the perimeter to finish with a season-high 22 points. The Lynx outrebounded the Storm 41-26, grabbed a season-high 11 offensive rebounds and scored 15 points off 15 Storm turnovers. Minnesota also limited Little to six points, none in the second half, after her career-high 31 on Friday.
“I thought they came out a lot more energized than we did, in the first half especially,” Storm coach Brian Agler said.
But the Storm made it interesting late, forcing 10 second-half turnovers and grabbing a 61-60 lead on Jenna O’Hea’s jumper with 5:01 to play. The lead changed hands three more times over the next two minutes, until Whalen’s two foul shots made it 64-63 Lynx. The Storm never led again.
“We’re a gritty team,” Little said. “We put ourselves in position to win the game, but we had some mishaps at the last second. The missed shot changed the game.”