- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
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Minnesota and Atlanta, the two teams that met in last year's WNBA Finals, might have their hands full Tuesday just making the conference finals.
Atlanta is on the road after not being able to close out Indiana at home Sunday in their Eastern Conference semifinal. The Dream and the Fever meet in Indianapolis in Game 3 at 8 p.m. ET.
At 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2, defending champion Minnesota hosts Seattle in their Game 3. The Lynx have lost just once at home all season, but the fact that they were forced into one more game in their Western Conference semifinal took quite an effort from the Storm.
Sunday at Seattle's KeyArena, the halftime entertainment was your standard magic show. It was fine as such things go, but it paled in comparison to the multiple escape acts the Storm subsequently performed.
After trailing by double digits in both halves, Seattle needed two season-saving 3-pointers to get the game to double overtime. Then the Storm won 86-79, leaving the Lynx shaking their heads about what went wrong. Most prominently, how their offense eroded by the fourth quarter. But also how they allowed first Lauren Jackson at the end of regulation and then Tanisha Wright late in the first OT to have such wide-open looks at the Storm's crucial 3-pointers.
"We just stalled, and we stalled in a really bad way," Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said of the Lynx letting a series sweep get away from them. "[The Storm] clearly didn't want their season to end."
Neither did the Fever, who bounced back from a lackluster opening-game loss at home with a much crisper effort in Atlanta in Game 2. These teams met in the Eastern Conference finals last year, and the Dream prevailed in three games. The latter was especially tough for Indiana, because star Tamika Catchings was hobbled after being injured in the second game in Atlanta.
This year's postseason trip to Georgia went much better for Catchings: She had 25 points and 13 rebounds Sunday in the Fever's 103-88 victory at Philips Arena. Catchings was one of six Indiana players who scored in double figures, as the Fever shot 53.1 percent from the field.
Everyone was likely expecting the Dream-Fever series to go the distance because the teams are pretty evenly matched. Indy finished second in the East at 22-12 in the regular season, while the Dream were third at 19-15.
And despite the much broader gap between the West first-place Lynx (27-7) and the fourth-place Storm (16-18), the fact that Seattle managed to extend the series to three games isn't really a surprise, either.
"[KeyArena] is a tough place to play as it is, with nothing at stake," Reeve said. "Then, now you add to it that it's win or go fishing. You fully expect they're going to give their best effort."
The Storm definitely did that. Now, though, the Lynx find themselves in the same situation: Win at home or the season is over. Minnesota is trying to become the first team to repeat as champion since Los Angeles did it in 2001-02.
Speaking of the Sparks, surely they'll be happy to see the Lynx and Storm wear themselves out in Game 3. Same for Connecticut watching the Fever and Dream having to go the distance.
The Sun finished their first-round series with New York on Saturday and will open the Eastern Conference finals at home on Friday -- regardless of who wins Tuesday in Indy.
The Sparks concluded their sweep of San Antonio on Saturday, too, and their travel plans depend on Tuesday's outcome at Target Center. Los Angeles will either head to Minnesota for the Western Conference finals opener Thursday, or the Sparks will be hosting Seattle that night.
"Game 3s are very interesting," Seattle point guard Sue Bird said. "They know all our plays, we know all their plays. There's really no secrets. It's just about who can execute better and make plays."
Same goes for the Fever-Dream series. It could be a very intriguing night indeed.
Atlanta and Minnesota made the WNBA Finals last season but face tough Game 3 tests Tuesday just to reach this year's conference finals.