We were back at the X last night in front of a sellout crowd that brought the energy. Before the game, Sylvia Fowles and Cheryl Reeve were honored on the court for the awards they won that were announced yesterday. Big Syl was named Defensive Player of the Year and Reeve won Coach of the Year.
Both were more than worthy of each merit. Fowles finished the regular season averaging 6.1 defensive rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. But as Reeve has mentioned in the past, so much of what she does defensively does not make it into the box score. She gets deflections, uses her size to close passing lanes and her aggressive play on offense wears down defenders, lowering their efficiency on the offensive end. She was modest and credited her team in a press conference beforehand as the reason she won.
The team set a franchise-record in wins this season, one off the all-time mark for any team in the WNBA, so it was a no-brainer for coach.
After embarrassing the Mercury on the offensive end Wednesday, the Lynx were still looking to improve their game. Their defense wasn’t anything to write home about either as they allowed 95 points, something Reeve was hoping they would correct.
She wasn’t happy after the game, again because of defense, but the team still won, 96-86, as they took a 2-0 lead in the series. It was a long one, featuring 54 fouls combined. 24 of those were in the first 14 minutes, and with each subsequent whistle it became almost comical. These two teams are historical heavyweights, at least recently, and the refs refused to let them play.
“I really don’t even know where to begin. It says the game took two hours and fifteen minutes but that has got to be a typo, it felt like it was four hours. I need to watch the video to understand what just happened,” Reeve said to start her postgame press conference.
There were 68 total free throw attempts in the game, each team making more of those than they did field goals. That is not a formula for exciting basketball. The league needs to come down on this crew and tell them one thing, “Let them play.”
It started out where we left off, with the Lynx winning the first quarter 35-24 after both teams exhibited minimal defense. Maya Moore was her usual self early on, scoring 14 points in the first frame. She had 21 by halftime and ended the game with 26. She tallied five assists and four rebounds by the final buzzer, giving herself a gaudy stat line but Reeve was not impressed.
“I know that the stat line says that she was really,really good but I think overall, Maya Moore is a better player than what we saw on display tonight. She’s going to have to be better if want to advance out of this series,” Reeve commented.
Coach knows her players well, what she can say to motivate each and every one. She knows Moore has a never stop improving mentality and though she had a great first half, she said the exact thing that would push Maya to better in game three.
Again the Lynx employed their one big quarter strategy and that was the first. Phoenix actually won quarters two through four but the 11-point differential after one was too much for them to overcome. Any time they would start to close the gap, someone on the Lynx would come down and demoralize them. Check out this play by Maya in the second after a missed shot:
You literally cannot make mistakes against this team. They forced 20 turnovers which led to 19 points so I was a bit confused when Reeve was again unhappy with her defense. They had active hands throughout and with an offense as good as Phoenix, you have to expect some lapses from time to time. Here is Jia Perkins, who played great off the bench, making another play for the team:
The Lynx kept their distance throughout the game but Lindsay Whalen was the one who sealed it. The Mercury got back within nine in the final period but it never got any closer than that thanks to her. She had 12 points in the fourth while being hounded by the defense. “It was one of those games where everyone got a call except Whalen, that’s just kind of her life, it’s humorous to her now,” Reeve said after the game.
Moore spoke about Lindsay and what she means to this team. “She’s the general. She’s always engaged, giving her emotions, her body, her will and we follow her,” Moore said. My favorite moment of the game was with about eight minutes left in the game. Whalen had the ball at the top of key with Diana Taurasi on her. She crossed her over and took a fade away jumper as the crowd cheered with delight. I couldn’t help but notice a little stare down from Lindsay after that.
She finished the game with 16 points on 5-10 shooting. Fowles had 14 points and nine rebounds. The game ball, according to Reeve, went to Rebekkah Brunson who had 13 points, 11 rebounds and a monster block to cap the game. I don’t think she has ever been in anyone’s doghouse due to the way she plays the game. Perkins was stellar off the bench with 12 points and five rebounds, two of those being big offensive ones, and three steals.
The team has a chance to close out the series in Phoenix on Sunday, at 4 PM central time.