The Lynx were back in town Friday night, looking for a season-sweep against the Washington Mystics.
In the teams two-game road tripa win in Los Angeles and a loss to PhoenixMinnesota struggled defensively, something coach Cheryl Reeve was eager to change coming into a two-game homestand this weekend.
On Friday night, Minnesota jumped out to a large lead in the second quarter. Though the Mystics would rally back to bring the lead down to single-digits in the fourth, the Lynx were too much for Washington defensively and won 75-65.
Lynx vs. Mercury
You know, obviously, good to be home, Reeve said about her teams impressive win on Friday. I think our players were obviously excited about that. I thought we had great focus on the defensive gameplanwe had the goal of, you know, kind of starting anew, if you would. You know the next, the next from here until the All-Star break making sure that our defense was of the Lynx style, and I thought this was a good first game for us. We held them just below 36 percent and, more importantly than that, I thought our rebounding was where we want it to be.
After a Janel McCarville basket to open the game, Seimone Augustus squashed pregame injury concerns by hitting back-to-back buckets, giving the Lynx a 7-4 lead two minutes in.
Coach Cheryl Reeve could be heard talking to her bench players, saying she wanted to push the ball. And push the Lynx did.
Minnesota was aggressive on all sides of the ball, putting pressure on Washington any way they could. They pushed the ball up the court following Mystic misses, closed out hard on defense, and even pulled down three offensive rebounds in one possession.
Washington had a balanced offensive attack in the first, passing the ball well. Six different players had points in the quarter to account for the Mystics16.
Maya Moore hit two 3s within the last minute and a half, and Augustuswho led Minnesota in the quarter with seven pointswould add another bucket to put the Lynx up 20-16 going into the second.
If Augustus was experiencing any pain in Fridays game, her performance didnt show it. She pushed the ball up the court well, made strong moves to the basket and employed her signature cross-over dribble to stun Mystic defenders.
To keep up the pace, Reeve subbed early and often. Tan White, Devereaux Peters and Monica Wright were all in the game midway through the first, and were cycled in and out frequently.
She had 11 points in the half and made smart plays on both sides of the ball.
Seimones playing through significant pain and has had it all week, Reeve said about her starter. One game she couldnt play and the ones that she did play, shes hurting. You know, but she took it for her team today, and we appreciate her being out there.
Augustus teammates agreed. McCarville joked that she would take Augustus playing on one leg any day of the week, and Moore said her teammate did a great job playing through the pain.
Shes a leadershe leads by example, Moore said. And shes had to do that several times. She just sets the, she sets the way as far as how you carry yourself. You may be struggling but when she does things like that it fires everybody else up. Its just amazing to see, with the pain she has, the focus to go, I think it was 9-for-14, you know stuff like that you cant help but want to play hard when you have captains doing things like that.
Augustus did it with points, and leadership as Moore said. Tricia Liston was on the receiving end of an Augustus assist, laying in the ball under the basket to bring the Lynx lead to 35-18 four minutes into the second.
Though the Lynx struggled shooting at times, Lindsay Whalen joined Augustus in the double-digit points column with 10 in the half.
McCarville got a layup with seconds to play though following a Minnesota steal, and the Lynx went into the break up 43-33.
McCarville closed the scoring in the second and opened it up in the third with a bucket in Minnesotas first possession.
Washington pulled themselves pack into the game though, cutting the lead to nine with 4:35 to go. They began trading buckets with the Lynx, but it wasnt enough when Augustus started hitting shots.
Augustus continued to be hot, with a couple of big buckets in the third to bring the Lynxs lead back to double-digits, and the score at the end of three was Minnesota 58, Washington 48.
A good sign for Minnesota, Wright and Peters continued to get more and more playing time on Friday, including some important minutes in the fourth quarter.
Though the Mystics tried to make multiple runs, bringing their defecit down to single digits a few times, Moore refused to let it stay that way for long. She was 7-of-15 on the night and had 20 points to lead the team.
The biggest moment of the quarter came when Tan White, Lindsay Whalen, and McCarville had back-to-back-to-back shot-clock beaters to get the lead to 73-60, and bring the crowd to its feet.
With only 1:24 left to play in the game, it was all over for Washington.
Maya Moore was just three measely assists away from a triple-double on Friday night.
Her 20 points led all scorers, and she tallied 10 rebounds. While Reeve subbed the rest of the team in and out like hockey players to keep their legs fresh after playing so many games this week, Moore played 35 minutes.
She led the team in production and helped keep the team focused when Washington threatened to cut into Minnesotas double-digit lead.
Highlight of the Night
Washington game out of the game hot, and Minnesota quickly went down 4-0. McCarville hit a basket for the Lynxs first of the game, and then came Seimone Augustus.
Augustus had back-to-back basketsthe first a 3-pointerto put the Lynx up 7-4 early on.
Augustus was playing with pain and swelling in her left knee, and her status for the game was unsure as of minutes before tip-off. But Augustus played through the pain, typical of what fans have come to expect of her toughness, and had 15 points for Minnesota.
Her baskets in the first quarter ignited fans in the arena and dispelled any doubts about what her performance would be like on Friday.
The Numbers Game
The first half continued to be critical for the Lynx. Minnesota led 43-34 at the break and gave up just 34 points after giving up 50+ points in three of their past four games. The Lynx are 8-1 this season when leading at the half.
Tonight marked the first game in a stretch where Minnesota will play nine of their next 12 games at Target Center. The Lynx are now 4-1 at Target Center this season and went 15-2 at home in the regular season of their 2013 championship run.
Tricia Liston continued to see extended playing time off the bench as she notched 8:42 of play in tonight's victory. The rookie sharpshooter from Duke scored seven points on 2-of-3 shooting against the Mystics. After playing just 5:29 in the Lynx' first nine outings, Liston is averaging 5.8 points and 13.5 minutes per game in her last five outings.
Minnesota started slow shooting but heated up in the first half. After starting 4-of-12 shooting, the Lynx hit 7-of-9 shots to build a 10 point lead in the first half and finished the half at 50% (18-of36). Minnesota finished the game hitting at a 46.4% from the field. The Lynx are second in the WNBA in shooting, hitting at a 47.7% clip on the year.
Were the Minnesota Lynx. And were the defending champs. And our expectation is to win every game.
-Coach Cheryl Reeve on her teams mindset going into games
Though Minnesota has played four games in the last six days, the team gets no rest as Indiana comes into town on Sunday for a 6 p.m. game.
The rest of the week is much calmer, as the Lynx will finally have a few practice days before they play in Seattle on Friday, where the team was handed its first loss of the season.
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Lynx on Twitter.