Gary Kloppenburg refused to play along.
The question was asked three times and rephrased once, but the Storm coach wanted nothing to do with the topic despite a fair amount of prodding.
Still, there’s a fun little debate swirling around WNBA message boards and hoops-centric social media that required Kloppenburg’s immediate attention.
Whose buzzer-beating, game-winning shot had a higher degree of difficulty?
A) Jewell Loyd’s three-pointer from the corner that gave the Storm an improbable 90-89 win against Los Angeles on Sept. 4.
B) Alysha Clark’s putback layup, which delivered No. 2 seed Storm a dramatic 88-86 win over No. 4 Minnesota on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals.
What say you, Klop?
“Man, I’m just happy they …,” he started.
No, no, no. C’mon, coach. Please answer the question.
“Both of them were in the right spot at the right time,” he continued.
OK, but whose shot was tougher?
“You really want me to answer that?” he said. “I’d say they’re equal. They were both tremendous plays. Sometimes you never get those in a season, and we had a couple of them. We’ve been on the other side of them too throughout the years. They probably even out those late, last-second shots.”
Klop, you’re so political.
“I learned from the politicians,” he said laughing.
One could make a strong argument for Loyd’s game winner considering the Storm trailed by a point and she had just 0.8 seconds to catch and release a rainbow three-pointer over Brittany Sykes before falling out of bounds.
However, you could also make a strong case for Clark given the circumstances. She had even less time — 0.5 seconds to be exact — to gather an offensive rebound in traffic and rush up a contested layup that bounced off the glass and into the rim as time expired.
It should be noted that the Seattle-Minnesota game was tied and a miss would have resulted in overtime and not a loss.
Still, a walk-off winning shot in the playoffs will always trump regular-season heroics.
“She doesn’t get enough credit,” Loyd said. “She’s always doing the little things, getting open, getting rebounds and obviously (Tuesday) grabbing rebounds for a putback. She’s constantly getting overlooked, and she’s the heart to this team.
“It’s about time she gets credit. It’s crazy she has to hit a buzzer beater to get her name out there.”
Clark, a 5-foot-11 forward, is often overlooked offensively in a lineup that includes four WNBA All-Stars and has developed a reputation as a defensive stalwart during a nine-year career that began as an undrafted rookie in 2012.
But when opponents overload to stop Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, Natasha Howard and Loyd, Clark reminds anyone who may have forgot she led all Division I players in scoring her final two years (2007-09) at Middle Tennessee State.
“My scoring ability is something I can always fall back on,” said Clark who set career highs this season in scoring (10.0 points per game), assists (2.7), field goal percentage (55.8%) and three-point percentage (52.2%). “We have a lot of weapons on this team and some nights are going to be better than others and that’s totally fine.”
Defend the three
Heading into Thursday’s 4:30 p.m. Game 2 on ESPN2, the Storm players talked about the importance of improving its defense, which was shredded on the perimeter and in the post Tuesday night.
Minnesota sank 14 of 31 three-pointers (45.2%) and second-year forward Napheesa Collier led the Lynx with a game-high tying 25 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and three assists.
“We were a step slow with our rotations trying to get out to some three-point shooters,” Kloppenburg said. “We just have to be a little more locked in defensively next game.”
Every Minnesota starter attempted at least three three-pointers and six players tallied a shot behind the arc.
Loyd said the Storm has to tweak its pick-n-roll defense while Howard believes the Storm must make Collier uncomfortable.
“We’ll be able to look at the film and make some corrections with how to guard them,” Kloppenburg said. “They are a good offensive team the way the play now with the three-point shooters. They present a lot of challenges for us.”