Throughout the Seattle Storm's historic championship run last season, they were lauded for their resilience.
Time after time, they were faced with a deficit and each successive comeback seemed to reinforce the notion that we were witnessing something great happening.
In defeating the Storm 81-74 tonight, the very talented Minnesota Lynx ended one of the greatest home winning streaks in the history of Seattle sports, which was full of comebacks and thrilling finishes. But even in loss tonight, the broader pattern of resilience still holds.
Down 26 points at halftime, the Storm could very easily have played out the final minutes of a dominant home strak waiting for the buzzer to sound and put the sour taste of a home loss behind them. Instead, whether due to confidence in their ability or the security of past experience, the Storm approached the second half as though it didn't occur to them that a loss was inevitable.
"We knew we had to come in with a really tough mindset because it's hard to get wins in this place so I'm really proud of the way we came out," said Lynx rookie forward Maya Moore, who finished with 14 point and six rebounds in her first trip to KeyArena. "We were able to hold on toward the end there. We knew Seattle wasn't going to just lay down and die - they were going to fight their way back."
After essentially playing the Lynx even in the third quarter, the Storm played as dominant a fourth quarter as the Lynx played a first quarter. Not only did the Storm shoot 58.3 percent from the field, but they reduced their turnovers to zero while moving the ball to find open shooters at a championship level. Meanwhile, they defended with a vigor that simply wasn't there earlier in the game.
And then there was Sue Bird who seemed to decide that she was not going to allow her team to go quietly. After a slow start to the game, Bird finished with a game-high 24 points and three assists after knocking down shot after shot in the fourth to chip away at the lead.
With under two minutes left in the game, the Storm found themselves within single digits, which was almost as shocking as the fact that they came out so flat to begin with.
"They had a 22-game home win streak going," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, referring to the Storm's regular season and playoff winning stream dating back to the beginning of last season. "We didn't talk about it, but in the back of my mind I knew it."
The Lynx deserve all the credit in the world for coming out tonight and pushing the reigning WNBA champions into a corner. They finished the game shooting shooting 57.1 percent and shot over 60 percent through the first three quarters. Rebekkah Brunson led the way with 22 points and 14 rebounds while Lindsay Whalen orchestrated the Lynx attack beautifully with a game-high 10 assists and 13 points.
But what made the game most impressive is not only that the Storm never gave up, but that they sent a message that even if their home winning streak is no longer in tact, containing them even for a full 40 minutes is a daunting task, much less trying to do so more than once in a playoff situation.
And that's why they are no less likely to repeat than they were prior to the game - as dominant as the Lynx looked tonight, they're under no pretense that the Storm are any less the resilient team on display last season.
"Fourth quarter is not what we wanted, but I've seen teams come here and have 24 or 25-point leads and lose so we were happy to have a big lead and hang on," Reeve said. "Win by one or by 21, it's still a win."
For more on the game, visit SB Nation's women's basketball site Swish Appeal.