The No. 2 seed Storm will open the WNBA playoffs at noon Sunday in the best-of-five semifinals against the No. 4 Lynx, which squeaked past No. 5 Phoenix 80-79 on Thursday night in a single-elimination second round game in Bradenton, Florida.
No. 1 Las Vegas faces No. 7 Connecticut in the other semifinal pairing.
The Storm is expected to be at full strength after a seven-day layoff, which allowed Breanna Stewart (left foot tendinitis) and Sue Bird (left knee bruise) to recover from nagging injuries that kept them out of the past two games.
“Our intentions are both being able to play,” Stewart said during a Zoom call. “My plan is to be ready to go on Sunday. And I think Sue is the same.”
The Storm posted an 18-4 record during the shortened 22-game regular season and with Stewart and Bird in the lineup, it was 10-1.
“When we have everybody and playing the way we’re capable, we’re going to be a tough out,” Storm coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “I feel good about our chances.”
The Storm swept both games against Minnesota during the regular season winning by an average of 19.5 points.
In their first matchup, the Storm was never challenged in the second half during a 90-66 blowout on July 28. Stewart (18 points and 10 rebounds) and Bird (16 points and four three-pointers) led the way for Seattle, which held Minnesota to 33.9% shooting.
In the rematch, the Lynx swapped three starters and fared a little better. However, the Storm rolled offensively and produced its third highest scoring outing of the season for a 103-88 victory.
Led by Natasha Howard’s 19 points, five players scored in double figures for Seattle.
Minnesota is bolstered by the return of six-time WNBA All-Star center Sylvia Fowles, who missed 13 games with a calf injury before playing Thursday. She had six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes.
Without Fowles, the Lynx leaned heavily on forward Napheesa Collier, who is averaging 16.1 points and 9.0 rebounds while blossoming into an all-WNBA first-team candidate.
In Thursday’s second-round game, Damiris Dantas scored a team-high 22 points while rookie of the year winner Crystal Dangerfield scored 15 of her 17 in the second half for the Lynx.
With 6.1 seconds left, Dantas missed two free throws that would have given Minnesota a three-point lead. On the ensuing possession, the Lynx survived a wild, contested shot by Phoenix’s Skylar Diggins-Smith as time expired.
“This was a win or go home situation for us,’’ Dangerfield said in a postgame Zoom call. “And we weren’t ready to go home just yet.’’
The Storm is 4-4 all-time in the postseason against Minnesota.