Despite gimpy stars and long odds against the defending champs, the Storm came up big late, stunning the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx 86-79 in a double-overtime playoff thriller Sunday night at KeyArena, extending Seattle’s season at least one more game.
Sue Bird, seeming to forget the pain in her hip as the grueling game wore on, scored 22 points, including a pair of threes in the second OT that broke the will of the Lynx.
The Storm led all the way in the final extra period when Tina Thompson, who subbed in after Lauren Jackson fouled out, hit a trey on the first possession for a 78-75 lead. The Storm’s defense, which disrupted the Lynx throughout the second half and OTs, held Minnesota to only a pair of heavily contested field goals in the final five minutes.
Jackson, still dealing with nerve damage in her right leg, missed her first nine shots, not scoring until two minutes were left in the third period. But she ended with nine points, 14 rebounds and two blocks in 33 tenacious minutes — her longest stint since the Olympics — before being disqualified with 40 seconds left in the first OT.
Jackson came through big time at the end of regulation. The Storm was down 70-67 when she went baseline and got a screen that left her undefended to take a pass from Bird and nail the tying three at the buzzer, bring 8,479 in the house to their feet. Minnesota had a foul to give on the possession, but neglected to use it.
Tanisha Wright finished with 18 points, including a vital three-pointer with 24 seconds left in the first OT. With the Storm trailing 75-72, Wright, who made only 10 of 52 threes in the regular season (19 percent), was left wide open with the ball after the Storm’s play broke down. She drained one of the biggest shots of the season.
Minnesota all-star Seimone Augustus, who finished with 20 points, including 14 in the third quarter, worked down the clock, but her 16-footer from the left elbow at the first OT buzzer missed everything under the pressure of Wright.
Bird, who had seven assists and four steals, played 43 minutes in a great bounce-back from Game 1, when she finished on the bench after eight points and five turnovers. She also helped defend her point counterpart, Lindsey Whalen, into a terrible game. Whalen missed 13 of 15 shots and finished with 10 points. The Lynx shot 32.5 percent from the field for the game, missed 13 of 16 threes.
With the Lynx’s other big star, Maya Moore, also having an off-night (5-of-17 shooting, 12 points), it was left to Rebekkah Brunson to keep the Lynx in the game. She dominated inside with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
The series moves back to Minneapolis for Game 3 of the best of three series Tuesday night at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN2.