Watching tonight’s WNBA action proved to be a workout in three of the four cases.
First there was the controversial foul called at the end of the Sky-Mystics game:
The Sky trailed by one when the Mystics’ Matee Ajavon missed a pair of free throws and the ball went out of bounds to the Sky with 2.5 seconds left. After Chicago inbounded, Prince crossed halfcourt and pulled up for a long jumper.
Ajavon contested the shot as the final buzzer sounded with the referees signaling a foul. After reviewing the tape, the officials sent Prince to the line for three free throws and put 0.7 on the clock. Prince hit the first two and missed the third on purpose. The buzzer sounded as the teams fought for control of the rebound.
Sky won, 71-70.
Then there was the thrilling finish to the Storm’s 63-62 win over the Liberty.
The Storm trailed for most of the second half, but consecutive three-pointers by Sue Bird and Katie Smith put Seattle up by one with 1:12 to go. Bird missed a shot and center Ashley Robinson leaped up to tip the ball back to a teammate.
New York center Kia Vaughn missed a long jumper with 6.9 seconds, and then teammate Essence Carson stole an inbounds pass and began racing down the court towards the basket. Bird caught up to her and stripped the ball from her under the basket as time expired.
Before the heart-stopping finish, Storm center Lauren Jackson had returned for her first game since having hip surgery in June. Tonight she put up 20 points and grabbed eight rebounds. She also started the game, and performed tipoff duties.
The Mercury rallied to beat the Silver Stars 87-81. They did it with Penny Taylor’s monster 28-point performance (16 in the fourth quarter). And they did it without Diana Taurasi, who sat out with back spasms.
Phoenix is second in the West, but only by one game over the Storm.
In defeating the Sparks 87-68, the Lynx clinched a playoff berth and will probably be Western Conference champions. Their last appearance was 2004, when they lost in the first round to eventual champs the Storm.
I remember the last game of that round well, because I was in tears. You see, the Storm really sucked their first two years, in 2000 and 2001, and they weren’t much better in 2002 and 2003. We season ticket holders sat there for loss after loss after loss, and there were times in Key Arena the first two years when you could hear a pin drop because there weren’t many other fans around. But we kept coming. Then the Storm started getting better.
Who knew at the time that Minnesota would have many struggles of their own before they’d return to the playoffs. So I give props to the Minnesota fans who have been supporting their team all this time: congratulations. Maybe this will be your year like it was the Storm’s way back when.