The best center in the league joins a team in the southwest US leading to instantaneous anointing of finals success. I wish I could find the four-letter sites predictions grid because certainly more than half of the voters chose the Mercury as league favorites, as did WNBA GMs a week ago. But a 0-3 start has left Phoenix looking like more of a speed bump than a title contender.
The Lynx shot out to an early lead in this one and never looked back. Maya Moore continued her strong first-half performances with 18 points in the first 20 minutes, while the Lynx collectively scored 60 points in the first half to the Mercury's 33. Taking a team mentality into the game, the Lynx passed through the Mercury's meager defense, racking up 30 assists (Whalen - 10), tying a team record and on only 36 shots.
So, Griner. She's really tall and an excellent low post player, but her game remains a work in progress. Griner did not appear interested in boxing out or rebounding as the Lynx captured 17 offensive boards, and kept some possessions alive for what felt like minutes. I am not sure what the Phoenix offensive game plan is at this point, because I saw little pick and roll action (you'd think a Taurasi-Griner PNR would be lethal) and Griner barely got any low post touches. When she did get the ball, Cheryl Reeve had an excellent game plan - doubling early, fouling when necessary, but forcing Griner to make her shots. Griner had one monster dunk opportunity in transition but missed it off the back of the rim. And with Janel McCarville winded and in early foul trouble, Amber Harris played a stellar performance against Griner.
Harris has been somewhat of a mystery on the Lynx averaging only 10 minutes per game last year, but she has had a breakout game on Thursday, racking up a career-best 18 points, 6 boards, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 3 blocks. She can stretch the floor with a 3 point shot (2-5) and pull bigs out of the lane. She stuffed Griner twice on the way to 3 blocks and appears to be a capable passer as well. With all the attention being drawn by Moore, Whalen and Augustus, if Harris can consistently knock down open shots, she'll solidify a place in the rotation and may even pass McCarville on the depth charts. In a postgame interview, after being read all of the accomplishments, Harris was asked if this could be called her breakout game. She simply responded, "Yup."
This game gave us an opportunity to see the Lynx rookies in action, especially Rachel Jarry who could already be cemented in the rotation. Jarry has played professionally in Australia since she was 16 or so and was drafted in 2011 by the Atlanta Dream and then traded to the Lynx. Jarry spent a couple more years playing in Australia (as well as in the Olympics) before joining the Lynx this season. At 6'1", Jarry spends most of her time at SF, where she appears to be a capable 3 point specialist.
Small sample size alert: Lindsay Moore and Sugar Rogers also got a few minutes down the stretch. Moore the Lesser didn't score, but she appears to be a pesky PG defender with a penchant for gunning 3 point shots out of PNR sets. Rodgers projects as a sharpshooter with a great shot off the dribble. Both were fun to watch, especially L.Moore, who was everywhere.
So much for preseason predictions...the Lynx appear to be headed to another sizzling season start. The team is so deep and has so much talent that it's hard for me to see other teams challenging them when they are in this kind of offensive mindset. And I didn't even talk about this: