The final shot of the game was given to Lauren Jackson, the three-time WNBA most valuable player. This time, it became the final shot of the Seattle Storm’s tumultuous season because Jackson missed the 10-foot baseline jumper, which gave the Minnesota Lynx a harrowing 73-72 triumph Tuesday night in Minneapolis and a 2-1 playoff series victory.
Clearly worn out from a summer of international ball and a leg-nerve injury, Jackson missed six of seven field goals Tuesday after missing 13 of 17 Sunday in Seattle. But on an in-bounds play with 3.3 seconds left designed to get the ball to Sue Bird (19 points, 11 assists), Katie Smith instead went to Jackson, who had posted up. She turned into a Minnesota double-team and her fadeaway clanged off the front of the rim, leaving a valiant Seattle effort a point short.
On the Lynx’s final possession, Lindsay Whalen missed an awkward runner and Jackson rebounded with 9.5 seconds left, but the Storm came up-court fairly slowly and, curiously, didn’t call the a timeout until 3.3 seconds remained, leaving time for little more than a catch-and-shoot.
The Storm, 2010 champions who set a WNBA record with its ninth consecutive postseason appearance, exited in the first round for the seventh time in eight seasons.
The first-round playoff ouster closed the Storm’s books at 17-20 for a season that began miserably at 1-7 and peaked with a dramatic 86-79 double overtime triumph in Game 2 at KeyArena. Despite the long game followed by a long flight Monday, the fourth-seeded Storm took it hard to the defending WNBA champs, who won the regular-season series 3-1.
An 8-2 Storm start faded quickly into a 22-14 deficit after one quarter. But the teams traded hot streaks that left Minnesota up 36-35 at halftime behind Maya Moore’s 17 points.
The Storm hung close the rest of the way, never falling behind more than six points but unable to take the lead. After Taj McWilliams-Franklin hit a short shot for a 73-69 lead with 1:10 left, Bird ignited dreams of another late-game comeback when she drained a three-point shot with 38 seconds left on an assist from Tanisha Wright and over the lunging defense of Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus.
It would be last time time Bird saw the ball.
In the scoring absence of Jackson, who hit her only field goal two minutes into the fourth quarter and finished with nine points and six rebounds in 31 minutes, Camille Little chipped in 17 points and Wright added nine.
Augustus had 14 of her game-high 21 points in the third quarter and Moore finished with 20. Unheralded Rebekkah Brunson, as she did Sunday, came up large late for the Lynx and finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Point guard Whalen fell eight minutes into the game and played with a sprained left wrist, but the Storm was unable to exploit her one-handedness.
As the Storm return home for the off season, the Lynx move on to the Western Conference finals against the second-seeded Los Angeles Sparks.