Lynx brace for hot-shooting Mystics (Sep 11, 2017)
Kristi Toliver's teammates couldn't believe their eyes.
Toliver scored 32 points and made a WNBA-record nine 3-pointers on Sunday, helping the Washington Mystics to an 82-68, come-from-behind win over the Liberty in New York and a spot in the semifinals against the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx.
Game 1 of the best-of-five series is Tuesday evening at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
"I've never witnessed something like that," Washington star Elena Delle Donne said, according to WNBA.com. "Being on the court -- and being on the right side of it -- was unreal. We just rode her wave today. She was unconscious, but that's her. I grew up watching her. That was her in the national championship game. So, when she's going off like that, we just do the little things and let her go."
Toliver, a Maryland grad, hit a 3-pointer to send the 2006 NCAA championship game to overtime. Her Terrapins went on to beat Duke for the title.
On Sunday, Toliver scored 17 points in the third quarter as Washington outscored the Liberty 25-10, turning a six-point halftime deficit into a 60-51 lead.
"It's playoff time. You lose, you go home," Toliver said after the game. "We want to make a deep run in these playoffs. I didn't come here to be a passive, tentative player. I came here to dominate, to lead. And what better place to do it than Madison Square Garden?"
She scored nine straight points during a decisive 17-0 run by the Mystics.
"That was my biggest fear going into this game, Toliver making the ungodly shots that she does every now and then," Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer said. "She played great. She made all the big shots. Any opening that she had, she released it before we could get a hand on the ball, and they went in."
The Mystics, the No. 6 seed, beat Dallas in Round 1 of the playoffs.
Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve took notice of Toliver's heroics.
"It is a team that will spread you out and shoot threes," Reeve told the (Minneapolis) Star-Tribune.
Minnesota was 3-0 against Washington this season, but Delle Donne, the league's No. 4 scorer (19.7 points per game) this season, missed one of those games with an injury and played limited minutes in the third, the regular-season finale.
"They're a team we just played," Reeve told the newspaper. "But we have an understanding that the way they'll play is different than the last time we played 'em. And we've yet to face them with their full roster."
On Sunday, the Lynx had their first practice at Williams Arena, a 90-year-old facility known as the Barn on the University of Minnesota campus. The Lynx played the regular season at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul while the Target Center was being renovated, but had to move to make way for the NHL's Minnesota Wild.
Moving to the Barn will be a homecoming for point guard Lindsay Whalen, who has returned to practice after missing more than a month with a broken bone in her hand. Whalen led the University of Minnesota to the 2004 Final Four.
"There's nothing like having Lindsay Whalen on the floor, directing things," Reeve told the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press.
After starting the year 20-2, Minnesota lost five of the 12 games Whalen missed.
"I'm not sure what our record would have been if Lindsay was out there. I don't know," Reeve told the Pioneer Press. "But I suspect it would have been a tough stretch either way. But, certainly, I think we felt like we were out of sync in the first few games (Whalen was out). But at the end of the day I think if (center Sylvia Fowles) plays well in all those games, it probably doesn't matter who the point guard is, and that didn't happen."
Minnesota is seeking its fifth trip to the WNBA Finals in six years, while Washington is trying to make its first Finals appearance.
Game 2 will be Thursday in Minneapolis.