The Lynx started off their 2019 season in style, beating the Chicago Sky by 18 points in front of a high-energy crowd on Saturday night.
It was obvious that Lynx fans were happy to be back in Target Center. They went wild for every player as the entire team was introduced pregame and kept it going the entire game as the Lynx rode an outstanding debut performance from Napheesa Collier and a red-hot third quarter to a 89-71 victory.
Collier led all scorers with 27 and she was supported by four other Lynx players reaching double-digit scoring and a strong game from fellow rookie Jessica Shepard. All in all, tonight was an extremely competitive all-around team effort. There’s a swagger and edge to the way this Lynx team plays that makes them extremely fun to watch. They won this game by throwing themselves wholeheartedly into doing the little things—they got to the line 32 times, they out-rebounded the Sky 46-to-29 and they recorded five blocked shots and 11 steals.
It’s clear that there is a lot that is new. There were missed rotations and a few blown plays. However, this team plays extremely hard which helps cover up some of the rough patches. They also talk freely and frequently—when they messed something up they immediately got together and talked about it. There was no head-hanging, just problem solving. They clearly enjoy playing together. That attitude and approach will take this team far as they make sure everyone is on the same page.
The Lynx opened up this one cold from the field but playing with a ton of energy. In the first quarter they shot just 36.8 percent from the field to Chicago’s 55.6 percent, but got to the line 12 times to Chicago’s four. Things evened out as the game went on, and the Lynx actually ended up outshooting the Sky 44.1 percent to 40.0 percent. There was room for improvement at the three-point line (30 percent) and the free-throw line (71.9 percent), but the Lynx shot 20 solid threes and got to the line an impressive 32 times.
The third quarter of this game belonged to the Lynx. They outscored the Sky 24 to 10, putting their foot down and defending their home court with an inspired passion and energy. It was great to see the Lynx come out of a choppy first half and respond with a committed and productive effort. If the Lynx are capable of replicating the results of that quarter on a larger scale, the WNBA better watch out.
Watching this group play, the potential is clear. Collier won’t put up 27 every night, but it’s clear the Lynx are loaded with talent. As Reeve said after the game, they haven’t accomplished anything yet, it’s just one game, but this is an amazing jumping-off point. Now comes the hard part.
About That Three-Point Shooting…
The Lynx want to shoot more threes this season. That was evident tonight. They weren’t forcing threes but were taking them whenever they were available—they got some good looks and ended up shooting 6-of-20 from three for the game. The efficiency will come, but it’s nice to see that what the Lynx were saying in training camp about everyone having a green light is true.
The Lynx’s most efficient shooter tonight was Collier, who shot 3-of-4 from deep, but Lexie Brown hit a pair and Odyssey Sims got one to fall as well.
The group of shooters that Minnesota can run out when they need to is impressive. Brown, Odyssey Sims, Collier and Stephanie Talbot are all reliable three-point shooters and Danielle Robinson is quickly adding that to her offensive arsenal.
- Jessica Shepard didn’t score much tonight but was very impressive in her debut. If Collier hadn’t lit the world on fire we’d definitely be talking more about Shepard’s hard-nosed rebounding and defense and her creative passing. Shepard had 13 rebounds and six assists, leading the team in both.
- The Lynx didn’t take many shots from the midrange—an area where they’ve excelled in previous years. This is a different team. They were aggressive getting to the rim and letting it fly from three. Robinson and Sims are fantastic getting inside.
- Fowles had a relatively quiet night as she struggled with foul trouble, but in the time she was out there she had several straight-up swiped steals in the passing lane. With Fowles’ size, it’s easy to forget how fast she is. The Sky won’t forget anytime soon.
- The Lynx are deep. Despite Fowles being limited to 26 minutes and Seimone Augustus and Karima Christmas-Kelly not suiting up due to injury, they put out some dynamic lineups. Ten Lynx players saw action and nine scored.
The Lynx take on the Storm at home on Wednesday. Seattle has been weakened by a devastating offseason of injuries, but still beat the Mercury 77-68 on Saturday night. Jewel Lloyd and Natasha Howard led the way. After playing the Storm the Lynx travel to Dallas to face the Wings next Saturday.