Web Editorial Associate
The Minnesota Lynx started the 2016 regular season off with a bang on Saturday night as they defeated the Phoenix Mercury in dominating fashion, 95-76.
Both Western Conference powerhouses came out strong to start the game as Phoenix missed their first shot at the 4:18 mark of the first quarter; but the Lynx came out roaring as well, countering with an effective jab after each Mercury haymaker.
After Phoenix’s early scoring onslaught, Minnesota buckled down defensively and showed their Championship stripes by causing havoc and finishing the game with 15 total steals, which led to 30 points.
“(Based off of what they saw in the pregame warm-ups), we knew that if we weren’t on point defensively, getting through screens with a sense of urgency, if we didn’t beat them to spots and they got open shots, that they would have success and that’s exactly what happened,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I thought they shot 75-80 percent for a long time, so what we talked about at that point was we have to disrupt, so we played in a little more scramble mode.”
Maya Moore led the way, scoring 27 points (10-for-18) and grabbing 10 rebounds, followed closely by Seimone Augustus with 21 points (10-for-15), Sylvia Fowles, who had 17 points and 14 boards, and Lindsay Whalen with 14 points (6-for-7).
One Lynx player who provided an immediate energy boost off of the bench was Renee Montgomery. The former University of Connecticut guard had six points and five steals which seemed to really let the Lynx loose on both ends of the court.
“I thought Renee Montgomery changed the complexion of the game with her defense,” Reeve said. “It was hard to play against and we held them to 14 in that second quarter and I thought that gave us a great deal of confidence.”
Diana Taurasi returned to action after sitting out last season to rest, and played very well for Phoenix, scoring 18 points, dishing out six assists and tallying three steals. Brittney Griner got into some foul trouble early and never really recovered, finishing the night with 12 points and five rebounds.
“I just think we didn’t play hard enough with what we wanted to do,” Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello said. “We had some good shots, we made shots, but so did they. They’re the Champions basically, they had way better chemistry than we had and their defense was better, and that’s what wins.”
100: Minnesota’s dominant center, Sylvia Fowles, tallied her hundredth career double-double in Saturday’s victory with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
8: The Lynx were extremely active all night and snatched this many more offensive rebounds than the Mercury did.
“That’s always the key, with Sylvia, with Rebekkah, J-Mac, Maya coming off of the wing, those are always things that you have to take care of if you want to be in the game, and we didn’t do that,” Taurasi said regarding rebounding.
27: After allowing Phoenix to score 28 points in the first quarter, Minnesota did a great job waiting for the storm to pass and got back to their Championship-level defense, only allowing this many points in the next two quarters combined.
“Once we settled down after that first five minutes of the game and we got into a grove, we knew where we needed to be and how we were going to score from that point on,” Augustus said.
Leader of the Pack: Maya Moore
The 2011 first overall selection in the WNBA Draft picked off where she left off last season, shooting efficiently and spreading the floor with ease.
“We wanted to come out and just bring a lot of defensive energy,” Moore said. “Phoenix started off hot and they were very aggressive in their ball screening, so we just had to ramp it up a little bit. Then in the second quarter our bench came in and gave us some really solid minutes to push us forward with that defensive flow.”
Moore finished the night with a game-high 27 points on 10-for-18 shooting, along with 10 assists and three rebounds. Moore is the first player in WNBA history to score more than 20 points and notch 10 or more assists on an opening night.
Minnesota will travel to Chicago on Wednesday to take on the 1-0 Sky. The game will tip-off bright and early at 11:30 a.m., so be sure to get an early lunch and tune-in to your league pass account or 106.1 BOB FM to follow the action.