Seattle faces Minnesota in WNBA playoffs, down 1-0 in the first round

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A year ago, onlookers called for Storm guard Katie Smith’s retirement.

The 14-year WNBA veteran shot 27.7 percent from the field in the team’s opening 14 games in 2011. She finished the season scoring a career-low 7.5 points as a reserve, highlighting Seattle’s lack of bench production as the team exited the playoffs after the first round for the sixth time.

Smith wanted a do-over.

“I knew I could play better,” she said.

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She’ll have to Sunday as Seattle, down 1-0 in the best-of-three series, meets Minnesota at 6 p.m. in KeyArena.

Moved into the starting lineup under coach Brian Agler’s roster overhaul earlier this season, Smith re-emerged to play some vintage basketball down the stretch of the season. As one of the team’s last scoring options, she averaged 8.2 points, four assists and four rebounds to end the regular season. The Storm went 6-3 in those September games.

She played even better in Game 1 against Minnesota on Friday, teaming with Tanisha Wright to handle the ball as All-Star Sue Bird watched the final minutes of an eventual 78-70 defeat. Smith finished with 12 points, three assists and three steals.

“I was just trying to be aggressive, give them different looks and make them work a little bit,” said Smith. “We’re not happy. But we know we have the right game plan.”

Seattle looked lifeless to open its ninth consecutive postseason. It missed eight of its opening nine field-goal attempts and looked every bit of its aging roster. Smith was actually removed from the lineup early to allow reserves to inject energy.

Inserted for Bird with 3:49 left in the game and the team down 10 points, Smith helped find rookie Shekinna Stricklen, who finished with a team-high 13 points. She played smash-mouth defense to help force four turnovers.

It didn’t culminate in a victory, but it left Minnesota thinking.

“Strick gave us some energy, creeping and flying around a little bit. We were just trying to make something happen,” Smith said. “It was just a little bit too late.”

Seattle has tried to create something out of scraps all season. It had 10 different starting lineups compared to Minnesota’s three — until it rested starters for the final three games.

Only Storm forward Camille Little appeared in every game this season. Lauren Jackson has played 10.

“They’re good,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “They’re just a team that hasn’t had their people together. Hopefully time will run out.”

Now the team faces a must-win game with Bird questionable due to a nagging hip injury. She wouldn’t discuss the injury after Game 1, but before the game, Jackson intimated the problem the point guard has faced since winning gold in the London Olympics.

Seattle spent Saturday watching video and going through a light walk-through in preparation for Sunday. Most of the problems in Game 1 weren’t due to the Lynx defense. Seattle missed 10 free throws and gave Minnesota 23 attempts from the line in the second half compared to five in the first.

Correcting that disparity alone could give the Storm a victory.

Another do-over in Smith’s eyes.

“We’re on the right track,” she said.

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or

Storm in playoffs
Best-of-three Western Conference playoff series
Game Time, TV
1 at Minnesota 78, Seattle 70
2 at Seattle 6 p.m., ESPN
3 at Minnesota Tuesday, ESPN2
Note: Game 3 only if necessary
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