The Minnesota Lynx decreased their turnovers, increased their bench presence, and dominated the floor Thursday night. At the end of the evening, guard Maya Moore got a 94-70 win for her 26th birthday. Tricia Liston led all scoring with a career-high 15 points, and Rebekkah Brunson, Seimone Augustus and Jennifer O'Neill each contributed 12.
Minnesota's bench combined for 46 points, the most points scored by reserves since 2008.
"We just have a lot of team chemistry," O'Neill said after the game. "Nobody on our team is selfish."
Heading into tonight's game, Seattle and Minnesota were tied up at 27-27 in their all-time series. It's safe to say the rivalry exists, and each team should have wanted a win... but someone forgot to tell Seattle that. The game turned into a one-sided contest quickly, as the rebuilding Storm squad found itself simply unable to stop Minnesota's offensive attack.
Liston headlined the evening with her 15 points. Despite missing her first two three-point shots, she didn't let it stop her from shooting. The forward finished the game 4-of-7 from behind the arc.
"It feels good to just see it go through the net," she said. "As a shooter, you know you're going to miss a few [...] but you have to try to stay mentally focused and not think about the misses."
Liston also emphasized the role of her teammates, who created plenty of open looks for her to make the shots. Reeve reiterated that point as well, saying the following:
"I thought [Liston's success] was a product of us being able to penetrate and collapse the defense [...]. She knows she's a good shooter. She just has to keep shooting."
As David noted in the game preview, Minnesota has been struggling to control the ball effectively, averaging 16 turnovers per contest prior to this evening. The Lynx committed three turnovers (two of them pretty ugly) in the first quarter, but they finished the game with only 11.
Despite a few errors, their offense compensated early on. Brunson notched six points, including an and-1 play, immediately involving the crowd in the game.
Minnesota held a sizable advantage throughout most of the first half, but Seattle certainly kept the Lynx on their toes with its frenetic pace of play. The Storm cut the deficit to eight points halfway through the second quarter, but Minny pulled ahead again. The Target Center crowd went crazy when O'Neill fired a beautiful no-look pass to Brunson for an easy layup, and the Lynx regained their comfortable lead. They finished the first half leading 39-29.
Jen O'Neill eats her carrots! Excellent vision from the rook to find Brunson underneath. #Lynx up 33-22 w/ 3:07 left in Q2.— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) June 12, 2015
Reeve spoke highly of O'Neill's performance. The guard was 3-of-4 tonight from the field and 2-for-2 from the 3-point line. It's clear that there is a big learning curve for O'Neill, but she doesn't look intimidated in the least.
Reeve said that coaching O'Neill requires an "on-the-fly" method. Reeve intentionally leaves O'Neill on the floor in tough situations, because she knows that the guard will come back from obstacles and figure things out. She proved that tonight.
O'Neill credited veteran players like Asjha Jones, who made her Minnesota debut tonight, grabbing her first bucket at the 2:39 mark of the first. The veteran center joined the Lynx weeks ago, but she sat out most of camp and the first two regular season games because of a blood deficiency.
Jones has been battling with fatigue while being treated, and she came off the bench to play just 16 minutes tonight, which Reeve predicted.
"[Jones] said the 16 minutes felt more like 36," Reeve joked following the game.
"It felt good--more part of the team. It gets hard to just be watching all the time," Jones said. "It felt good to get out there and break a sweat."
Hopefully, Lynx fans will see more and more of Jones moving forward.
- Minnesota win Battle of the Bigs: In the first half, Dantas, Brunson and Jones combined for 22 Lynx points.
- Tonight's 46 bench points were the most in seven seasons.
- The Lynx shot 53 percent to the Storm's 38.1 percent.
- Both teams scored seven 3-point shots on the night.
- Lindsay Whalen played just under 20 minutes but tallied seven assists and seven points in that time.
A heart-warming moment occurred just before the game, when the team ran out onto the floor to begin warmups. Maya Moore ran alongside 14-year-old Ariya Smith, the two of them holding hands. Smith is part of the Make-A-Wish program and was "signed" as an honorary member of the team yesterday. You can read more background to the story here.
I also tweeted a video of Smith's introduction: