Clark’s putback at buzzer lifts Storm past Lynx 88-86

BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) — It’s been a crazy 48 hours for the Seattle Storm and it was only fitting that their WNBA playoffs series opener had a wild finish.

Alysha Clark’s putback at the buzzer lifted the Storm past the Lynx 88-86 on Tuesday night in the first game of the semifinal series.

Seattle inbounded it with 14.8 seconds left after Napheesa Collier tied it on an up-and-under move. Sami Whitcomb got it in the corner and drove the baseline for a layup that missed but it fell to Clark, who corralled it and released it just before the final buzzer.

“The last 48 hours have been pretty stressful and exhausting. not knowing what to expect, confused about everything. How is this happening?” Clark said. “You know you play the waiting game. sitting around waiting for testing results, sitting around waiting to be moved. Honestly, there’s no other way this game would have ended after the last 48 hours have been.”

Seattle, which has won seven straight games against Minnesota, hadn’t played since Sept. 13 after earning a double-bye to the semifinals. The game was originally scheduled for Sunday, but it was postponed because of inconclusive COVID-19 tests with three players on the Storm. Seattle stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird had been off since Sept. 9 due to injuries.

Jewell Loyd scored 18 of her 25 points in the first half, and Stewart had 21 points and 10 rebounds for Seattle. Bird had 11 points, including two fourth-quarter 3-pointers, and eight assists.

“We were ready to go Sunday,” Stewart said. “Having to wait a couple more days to play we haven’t played a game in 10 days and Sue and I haven’t played a game in probably two weeks. So it took a little while to get the rust off but we just continue to stay with it to grind through it.”

Collier had 25 points, nine rebounds and six blocks for Minnesota. Odyssey Sims added 19 points and rookie of the year Crystal Dangerfield was held to four points.

“It’s what we hoped for, put ourselves in position with five minutes to go,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Players from there made plays. Players from both teams had players making plays. I enjoyed watching our team competing, making plays when it was necessary. Seattle made just one more play. We defended pretty well, we just didn’t finish the play.”

Loyd blocked Sims’ layup attempt and Clark made a layup at the other end to give Seattle an 84-81 lead. After Damiris Dantas tied it with a corner 3-pointer, Loyd put Seattle back in front with a driving layup.

Game 2 is Thursday night.

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