SEATTLE — As the Storm celebrated its double-overtime playoff victory over Minnesota on Sunday night in an upbeat KeyArena locker room, Lauren Jackson looked forward to Christmas.
“It’s going to be awesome,” Jackson said of the holiday that comes during summer in her native Australia. “It’s going to be so hot. My new house, fishing. I’m so excited.”
Thinking ahead to a respite before joining international teams helps tired Storm players after a long year of play. Of course, they’re not ready for that break yet.
So on Sunday, they encased themselves in ice, trying to recover from injuries and bumps and bruises, getting ready for the deciding Game 3 of the Western Conference first-round series at 6 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN2) in Minneapolis. The Storm hopes to advance and have a shot at winning a third WNBA title.
“Of course we’re tired,” said Storm guard Tanisha Wright, who played 41 minutes in the 86-79 win on Sunday.
“You play every other day, taking flights. You’re absolutely exhausted,” Wright continued. “But this is it. We go there and we leave everything we have on the court. The energy, we’ll get it. The adrenaline — anytime you’re in this type of situation, there’s no lack of that. Everybody will be fighting.”
Across KeyArena’s lower-level corridor Sunday night, Minnesota stated the same in its locker room. The Lynx was 16-1 at home during the regular season, losing 86-80 in July to eventual Eastern Conference champion Connecticut. But the Lynx had a seven-game win streak in the postseason snapped Sunday and the younger bunch appeared rattled as the game progressed.
The Lynx shot 23 percent in the fourth quarter, letting the Storm get back into the game and force overtime. Minnesota led by 10 late in the third quarter, by six to start the fourth and by four with 17 seconds to play.
Minnesota’s game plan focused so much on Jackson, Wright, Sue Bird and Tina Thompson, it allowed forward Camille Little to drive untouched in the final quarter for a layin that gave Seattle its first lead of the second half, and a pulse for the late resuscitation of a game. Of a season.
“I had some very out-of-character players on the court,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said of the Lynx, which shot 50 percent in the second half of Friday’s Game 1 victory. “At some point you have to score — there’s only so much you can do defensively.”
The Lynx, like the Storm, will continue to make adjustments to advance to the Western Conference finals against Los Angeles later this week. The second-seeded Sparks swept San Antonio 2-0 in its best-of-three opening-round series.
Playing a seventh game of the season against each other, however, there aren’t many secrets for the Lynx or Storm.
As for advantages, Jackson, who began Sunday’s game 0 for 9, said her team had its best flow of the season after halftime. Minnesota forward Rebekkah Brunson knows an equally wild Target Center crowd will carry the Lynx as KeyArena did the Storm.
“It’s not over,” Brunson said.
It will be for one team Tuesday. And the odds aren’t as great as assumed for the Lynx. Since the Sparks’ championship in 2002, no WNBA team has won back-to-back titles.
“I do know this, Lauren will adapt to (the physical defense). She’ll play better on Tuesday,” Storm coach Brian Agler said of his three-time MVP.
She has to, if she wants to add another WNBA title as an early Christmas present.