Web Editorial Associate
The Minnesota Lynx defeated the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1 of their Semi-Finals matchup on Wednesday night in a way that not many people saw coming.
The defending WNBA Champions out-rebounded the #8 seed 38-20, tallied 52 points in the paint and got an impressive 28 points from the bench on their way to a 113-95 victory.
At 6’8, Phoenix’s center Brittney Griner is a dominant force in the paint and was averaging a little less than 10 boards in their first two playoff games. The Lynx did a great job playing aggressively and were able to always have a body on Griner when a shot went up, limiting her to only two rebounds which led to the massive plus 18 rebound advantage.
“We’re the best defensive-rebounding team in the league, we pride ourselves on that,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We should get every rebound when you have Maya [Moore], Brunson and [Sylvia Fowles]… and they take great pride in it. If you watch Brunson rebound, it doesn’t just come to her, she gets out there and gets it and corrals it and brings it in. It’s a ‘want-to’ that she has. Same thing with Sylvia, that’s just in their DNA, it’s what they do.”
Speaking of those Big 3, (Moore, Brunson and Fowles) each of them had great rebounding performances and combined for a total of 24, four more boards than Phoenix had as a whole.
“Just being determined with whoever is out on the floor,” Fowles said. “We have a mindset that we just want to go out there and get it done for each other. I think rebounding plays a factor into that aspect.”
If the Mercury want to have any success going forward in this series, they will need to up their rebounding numbers, and in order to do that, they may want to try and prevent Minnesota from shooting over 63 percent as they did in Game 1.
“Fowles is a beast on the boards and that’s the way she helps the Lynx out so much there,” Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said. “We just have to do the preparation to get those rebounds and hopefully we’ll do a better job next time.”
Another key as to why Minnesota was able to make it look so easy in their first game of a potential five against Phoenix was their depth, specifically at guard.
It’s not often a team has an Olympian (Anna Cruz), a multi-year starter (Jia Perkins) and a WNBA Champion (Renee Montgomery) coming off of their bench. Down 16-12 midway through the first quarter, Coach Reeve went small and took out three Olympians (Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore) and put in the, as I like to refer to them as, ‘Piranhas.’
After that substitution was made, Minnesota went on a 43-22 run in the next 15 minutes and led 55-38 at halftime.
“The starters were tired, there was zero credit for any kind of strategy,” Reeve said. “That’s the next group, we’ve been able to use those guys. I thought they were effective – [Phoenix is] big, Phoenix is really big and that second [Minnesota] group is not. I thought we did a decent job using our advantage, which was our quickness. I thought we played with really good flow. I thought that group, Renee [Montgomery] and [Natasha Howard], they gave us really good offense. I just thought overall we enjoyed being able to share the minutes that we were able to do and then when that quarter ends, that first group comes back in. When we’re able to do that, it’s usually pretty good for us.”
The three tenacious guards all had great games in their own manner and combined for 16 points, five rebounds and nine assists.
“When the little group came on in that first quarter it kind of rattled us a little bit,” Brondello said. “The second quarter we just got on our back foot and they were on their front foot and that was the difference. It’s something that we can definitely learn from. It’s a series, so that’s the beauty of this. We have to regroup and find a way to have a bit more composure in those type of moments.”