However, the Storm's anemic offense could not be remedied, allowing the Lynx to escape with a 58-55 win Sunday afternoon at the Tacoma Dome, completing a sweep in the Western Conference semifinal round to reach the conference finals for a third straight year.
"We had some unforced errors that we could have controlled...Seattle gets credit for that because they made us play in a very chaotic way that was a little bit out of character," said Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve.
The Lynx gave up the ball 17 times, above their regular season average of 12, and hit just 37.7 percent of their shots. Usually, such conditions would be optimal for an opponent, but the Storm squandered with an upset bid at stake. Seattle was better in overall field goal shooting (41.8 percent), but converted only three of 17 shots from three-point range.
Offensively, the key line was free throws. The Lynx hit 9 of 11 while the Storm made 6 of 11, points that served highly influential in the final margin.
"The score was about where we wanted it," said Seattle head coach Brian Agler. "We hung in there and gave ourselves an opportunity."
Opportunity arose with 1:20 left in regulation, when Tina Thompson scored a layup to give Seattle a 55-54 lead to energize the sparse crowd of 3,457. 59 seconds later, Lynx guard Seimone Augustus shrugged off a horrid shooting effort to nail a pull-up jumper, ultimately the go-ahead basket.
"We set up a nice screen for her to get the shot that we wanted and then we had a player like Seimone just doing her thing, she was in her element," Reeve said.
Rebekkah Brunson added two free throws for Minnesota, and Seattle was unable to draw a three-point look or three-point play in the final 11 seconds.
Despite the low score, the Lynx had a pair of shining moments, with Maya Moore posting 22 points and seven rebounds. Brunson racked up 15 points and 13 rebounds.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game so we just tried to maintain our composure, stay calm, keep our poise, and eventually something would happen for us," Brunson said.
Tanisha Wright led Seattle with 16 points and Camille Little put in 14.
Minnesota's next opponent will be revealed tomorrow night, when Los Angeles and Phoenix play the deciding game in their series. Recent history in this round favors Minnesota, who swept Phoenix in 2011 and did the same to Los Angeles last year. The Western Conference Finals begins Thursday night at Target Center.
Scouting the upcoming match-up was not a post-game focus for Reeve and company. Most activities centered on Seattle forward Tina Thompson, who played her final WNBA game as a result of her team's elimination.
Thompson was the last original player from the league's inaugural season in 1997, and was the first player chosen in the draft. The 38-year-old served an integral role for the Houston Comets, who won four straight titles in the league's first four seasons. Thompson would not win another championship following that run, but she leaves with career records in scoring and minutes played.
"What you put in is what you'll get back. I felt like I've given as much as I possibly can, because of that I've been able to reap the benefits. That's how it was when I was winning championships," she said.
Thompson indicated no regrets over her final day of work, logging 13 points and nine rebounds. She reaped one final benefit from Minnesota, joining their team for a group photo.
"She made some big plays for her team and we had to come back and try to do the same. We have so much respect for her and what she’s done for the game of basketball," Moore said.
Reeve teared up while reflecting Thompson's credentials in the post-game press conference.
"You might think these are tears of joy to see her gone, but Tina’s special, and for our league to be moving on, it’s hard,” Reeve said. "Showing up for work everyday with a professionalism that was second to none, you can count on her and that’s one of the greatest things you can say about an individual."