With another extraordinary performance from All-Star forward Maya Moore, the Lynx overcame a trying first half and rolled to an 84-66 win over Chicago. Moore led the team with 29 points and seven rebounds, followed by Anna Cruz with 16.
Several players put up impressive numbers Friday, making it difficult to credit the victory to one player.
Although she didn't score the most points, point guard Lindsay Whalen arguably stood out as a key component of the game, as she spurred a necessary momentum shift to end the first half. The Lynx struggled offensively for the first 17 minutes or so, shooting only 31.6 percent in the first quarter. Moore grabbed five points in the first three minutes of the game, but she then couldn't get much to fall and finished the first half only 3-of-10 from the field.
"It wasn’t a question of whether we were playing hard enough," said head coach Cheryl Reeve. "Sometimes, you want to win too bad. You start playing ‘mad’ when something doesn’t go your way, and I just wanted to have fun."
The Lynx found themselves down 27-17 in the second quarter, and they badly needed a spark. Whalen gave it to them. At the 7:48 mark, the guard nailed back-to-back three pointers and then a nice jump shot to bring the Lynx to within six points. A couple minutes later, Whalen knocked down another jumper. Her energy enabled Minnesota to tie the game at 34 heading into halftime, and the rest is history.
"We were struggling in the first—we were playing hard, we just weren’t finishing our game plan on either side," Moore said post game. "In the second quarter, Wha[len] and Cruz were the reason we were able to tie it back up. We got back to ground zero and then we could push it up in the third. [Wha]len was huge in holding us together."
Reeve also commented on the veteran's contributions:
"Whalen decided to be our three-baller for the night, and she willed the team to take that deficit and get it closer; we were able to overcome it."
Moore came out with a much stronger second half, tallying 22 of her points in the final two quarters. She also played well defensively, adding three steals and three blocks. True to her nature, however, following the game Moore talked much more about her teammates than about herself.
"I just love how unselfish this team is," she said. "We just move the ball and share it and don’t care who gets the credit."
Minnesota's second-half charge didn't lose steam, and Chicago ran out of answers. At one point, the Lynx went on a 23-2 run, holding the Sky scoreless for over six minutes.
"That’s quite the statement," Reeve said. "I was most pleased with our defense […]. It’s our house, so we kind of expect to be able to do that, but it was a tall order."
Minnesota held Chicago's top scorers, Elena Delle Donne and Cappy Pondexter, to just 18 points combined, which was an accomplishment in and of itself against an offensively adept squad.
Coming into Friday night's game, the Lynx certainly wanted a win. Both teams have reputations of being high scorers, and Minnesota had fairly similar records, 10-3 and 9-5, respectively. The Sky defeated the Lynx on July 10, due in part to the difference in free-throw shooting. Chicago landed over 90 percents of its free throws, while Minny shot just over 62 percent from the charity stripe.
The Lynx stepped up their game Friday, making 11 of 13 attempts from the free throw line.
A big win was especially sweet in the absence of Seimone Augustus. Prior to the game, the news broke that Augustus underwent surgery; the Lynx hope to have her back on the court mid-August.
Seimone Augustus had arthroscopic surgery on her right knee Friday. Her return date is uncertain. Cruz to start.— Kent Youngblood (@BloodStrib) July 17, 2015
Anna Cruz, filling in for Augustus, made her first start for Minnesota but is no stranger to the role. Last season, Cruz started all 34 games for New York, and she is used to being the leader with European teams.
Cruz tallied 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists in just over 33 minutes on the floor. Twice, she easily snagged breakaway layups that really got the crowd going. Lynx fans will hope to continue seeing this type of play from Cruz as they await Augustus' return.
"In her first start for us, Anna was terrific on both sides of the ball. She gave us so much energy," Reeve said. "[...But] We don't need to her to be Seimone Augustus; we just need her to be Anna Cruz."
The Lynx will now head on the road to face Tulsa on Sunday afternoon. Tipoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
- Whalen grabbed all 10 of her points in the second half.
- Minnesota held Pondexter to just four points on the evening.
- The Lynx shot 53.8 percent from behind the 3-point line.
- Each team tallied six blocked shots.
- Lynx center Asjha Jones notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Sideline Moment of the Game
Moore, who was recently named to the WNBA All-Star game as a Western Conference starter, received quite the ovation prior to the game when she was introduced once again as the Western Conference Player of the Week. Moore stood up and warmly acknowledged the crowd, true to her well-liked reputation.
Faces in the Crowd
Jesse Ventura (a regular attender) and Minnesota Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph were both spotted at Friday's game.