MINNEAPOLIS – Rebekkah Brunson doesn’t get the most headlines on the Minnesota Lynx. Still, she’s a key reason the team still has a chance to defend its WNBA title.
Brunson just missed her third straight double-double with 16 points and nine rebounds and the Lynx held off the Seattle Storm, 73-72, on Tuesday night to advance to the Western Conference finals.
Seimone Augustus scored 21 points and Maya Moore had 20 to help Minnesota bounce back from a double-overtime loss in Game 2 and win the best-of-3 opening round series.
Minnesota will host Los Angeles in the opener of the West finals Thursday night. The Sparks swept San Antonio in their series.
“Survive and advance, baby. Survive and advance,” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve.
Sue Bird scored 19 points and Camille Little had 17 for Seattle, which won the championship in 2010, but lost in the conference semifinals for the seventh time in eight years.
The Storm had a chance to win it in the final seconds, but Lauren Jackson’s turnaround jumper went off the rim.
“She makes those all the time,” Bird said. “When it went off her hand I was hoping.”
Jackson, the 6-foot-6 center, was watched by Brunson on the final play, just as she had been for much of the series. Jackson made 10 of 36 shots from the field in the three games and had just 23 rebounds – 14 of which were in Game 2.
“Nobody’s going to be able to stop her, you just want to make everything tough,” said Augustus. “Our post players did a great job of making her job harder.”
Reeve called Brunson the team’s MVP for the series. “Without her, we would have really struggled.”
Brunson, who averaged 11.4 points and 8.9 rebounds in the regular season, shrugged off the compliment. “I’m trying to do whatever I can to put my team in the best situation to win. It’s not about me. I think we played an amazing three games together collectively.”
She scored 10 of the team’s first 11 points in the final quarter.
“She has worked hard and developed into not just being a rebounder, but into the ability to score in one-on-one situations,” said Seattle coach Brian Agler. “There was a point during the course of this game where she hit multiple shots, jump shots away from the rim, and hit big baskets for them, and at the same time still played to her main strength, which is rebounding and getting them second opportunities.”
After Lindsay Whalen missed a leaner for the Lynx with 10.4 seconds to play, Seattle appeared to be running a final play, but Agler saw that Minnesota’s defense had hustled back, so he called a timeout with just 3.3 seconds to play before Jackson’s shot.
“We’re not surprised that it came to that,” Bird said. “We knew that we would have a chance.”