On Tuesday night, the Lynx used an inspired first half of basketball to beat the Dallas Wings 91-83 in a strange, slow game that featured a combined 62 free throws and subpar shooting from both teams. The Wings mounted a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, but the Lynx had built enough of a cushion to hold them off. With the win, the Lynx are 5-6 on the season.
The first quarter of this game was some of the best basketball we’ve seen from Minnesota all season. They came out aggressive on both ends of the floor, coming away with three steals in the first 2.5 minutes of the game, and winning several heads-up plays and second-chance opportunities. Both Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles played well—Moore playing with ease both in the post and beyond the three-point line, and Fowles taking Liz Cambage deep in the post for several buckets.
Moore finished with 21 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and three steals. Fowles scored 19 to go along with 17 rebounds and 5 steals—tying her career high.
However, the Wings were aggressive as well. Fowles got into foul trouble in the second quarter (the Wings held a 20-4 advantage at the free-throw line headed into halftime), and Rebekkah Brunson was forced to play almost the entire game at both frontcourt spots. Her ability to do so was the key for the Lynx tonight.
Brunson finished with 9 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals, but her impact went far beyond the box score. She played excellent defense on the much larger Cambage, and held her own in the pick and roll when she was switched onto guards. Brunson’s efforts helped the Lynx outscore the Wings in each of the first three quarters, and lead 76-58 going into the fourth.
“Sorry B.B., that’s kind of my fault I got in foul trouble so she didn’t really have a choice,” said Fowles of Rebekkah’s 33 minutes. “She looked like classic [Brunson]. She’s moving her feet, she’s getting boards, she’s hitting, she’s guarding guards, she’s guarding bigs, she’s holding it down.”
In the final period things took a turn for the worse. The Lynx offense stalled, they had trouble taking care of the ball, and the Wings started hitting their threes. Dallas came back to within five with a few minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. However, the Lynx had just enough in the tank to come away with the win. They hit their free throws when it counted, and adjusted their approach in the second half to get to the line more often. By the end of the game, they had reached the foul line 35 times to Dallas’ 27.
The Lynx have had trouble closing out games all season, something that coach Cheryl Reeve is very aware of. However, the discussion of the necessity of finishing strong is a much easier conversation to have following a win.
“It’s a trend. That’s what I told the team. We won the game and they should be happy about that but I don’t want them to be satisfied because that could haunt you, to play so well and to be so bad,” she said. “It’s something we’re trying to be mindful of, something we’re trying to get better at, but we’re not there yet. Happy to talk about it after a W, but it’s something we have to work on.”
With the victory, coach Cheryl Reeve earned her 200th career win as a head coach. This impressive accomplishment has only been achieved by seven other coaches in WNBA history.
The Lynx are on the road again in their next game taking on the Mercury on Friday. It will be nice to get a couple days off to rest up and take care of some nagging injuries (Danielle Robinson and Cecilia Zandalasini both were forced to exit the game at various points, though Robinson returned and Zandalasini seemed fine). Phoenix is a good team, and winning on the road is never easy, but expect the Lynx to come out shooting as they try to climb their way back above .500.