With seconds left in the Western Conference semifinals, coach Brian Agler and his team couldn't formulate a winning play.

Share story

In its seven previous first-round exits in the Western Conference playoffs, the Storm was nowhere near as competitive as it was in this year’s best-of-three series loss to Minnesota.

“It wasn’t like it was the semis of the Western Conference. It was more like it was the Western Conference finals,” Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson said of the series, which her team won with a 73-72 victory against the Storm Tuesday. Minnesota hosts Los Angeles in the best-of-three conference finals beginning Thursday.

The three games of the first-round series between the past two WNBA champions were decided by an average of 5.3 points. Seattle needed the drama of buzzer-beating three-pointers and double overtime to win Game 2 at KeyArena on Sunday.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

But the Storm’s final 9.5 seconds at the Target Center will be remembered just as much. In fact, the season might still be continuing if coach Brian Agler would have trusted his team to complete a transition at the end of regulation while down one. Or if, during a 20-second timeout with 3.3 seconds left, Agler and his team were able to come up with a more concrete plan to get the two points they needed to advance to their first conference final since 2010. Or if Katie Smith waited a split-second more when inbounding the ball out of the timeout to spot Sue Bird open on the wing.

Bird, an All-Star point guard, was 5 of 10 from the field in the second half with 12 points. She seemingly would have been a better choice for Smith instead of the pass to center Lauren Jackson inside. With Brunson covering her, the three-time MVP turned for her signature jump shot. The ball bounced off the rim, Jackson finishing the Game 1 of 7 from the field for nine points.

“I think our mistake came — and that’s all of us — is we weren’t on the same page,” Bird said. “That’s what’s most disappointing. It’s very unlike us.”

Bird and Agler still weren’t on the same page afterward. The coach said he made an instinctual timeout because he didn’t see anything developing.

“What’s the point in dribbling up and calling a timeout? It just wastes time at that point,” Bird said in the postgame locker room. On replays, guard Tanisha Wright had an open three-point look before the timeout was called. She nailed a similar shot off a feed from Bird with one-tenth of a second remaining in the opening half.

“We should have either called timeout immediately or we should have probably played in transition,” Bird said. “It’s hard in the heat of the moment. It’s loud. We just weren’t on the same page. … The way the play unfolded, I think Katie felt she was running out of time and saw Lauren. I almost ran into Lauren as I was going to the corner. Either shot we would have gotten between Lauren and myself would have been a good look.”

It didn’t matter. Seattle lost, and players returned on scattered flights Wednesday and will conduct exit interviews with the staff on Thursday.

“It’s could’ve, should’ve, would’ve,” said Smith, who was the one advancing the ball in the waning seconds. She was 3 of 5 from the field in the second half for seven points. “We were indecisive about timeout, no timeout — hence the nonaggressive take when I came down. We wasted a little bit of time, but we still got a good look. But we also had our shots throughout the game… we just didn’t make enough plays.”

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or jevans@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @JaydaEvans

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.