Cheryl Reeve had not been impressed with her team’s defense throughout the series, as the Lynx headed to Phoenix looking to close out the Mercury in Game 3 this afternoon. Lucky for them, the Mercury’s defense has been even worse, allowing 209 points in two games, completely unable to stifle the Lynx offensive attack.
Something finally clicked today, as the team completed their sweep behind strong defense, beating Phoenix 82-67. They held the Mercury to 41 percent shooting and more importantly only 5-19 from beyond the arc. Defending the three has been a key weakness at points during the season but the Lynx response to that was quite clear. Not today. They racked up 11 steals on their way to forcing 15 turnovers and frustrated them with excellent team defense.
My imaginary game ball goes to my favorite player right now, Natasha Howard. She was stellar today coming in for Sylvia Fowles who, yet again, was in foul trouble early.
Reeve had this to say about Howard after Game 1: “I wasn’t sure what we were going to get out of her. I had more of a mindset with [Howard] that I wanted to bring her on slowly in this series.”
Being such a big fan of her play, it was disconcerting to hear that from coach. She has provided great energy coming off the bench, causing mismatches for teams that cannot contain her blend of athleticism, skill and hustle. If you’re not sure what I mean, look at this:
I think she’ll get her fair share of minutes in the Finals now, as she had 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists in the series-clinching win. She makes so many great plays for the team because of her unselfishness, always willing to make the extra pass:
The game was close coming out of halftime, where the Lynx held a measly one-point lead, 39-38. No need to worry though as they still didn’t have their patented one big quarter, which they reserved for the third. They won that frame 26-15 thanks in part to Howard. After Fowles picked up her fourth foul a half-minute in, she entered the game and led the Lynx on their first big run.
It was 45-39 when Howard surprised Phoenix with this jumper:
During this run she scored eight of ten points for the Lynx, assisting on the other two by Maya Moore. She scored cutting to the basket on a great pass from Lindsay Whalen, she threw up a pretty reverse after an offensive rebound, you saw what else she did above—she did it all. They were up 55-43 after that and coasted their way to victory the rest of the game.
Moore ended the game with 20 points, six rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Seimone Augustus had 12 points, three assists, and three steals. Fowles’ fouls limited her to eight points and five rebounds. She needs to be more disciplined when defending as she will be needed in a potential matchup with the Sparks.
They couldn’t close out their series today as they lost to the Chicago Sky, 70-66.
This win felt great for the team. They shored up their defense and swept a team that they were markedly better than. At halftime, Brittney Griner was asked about playing with Penny Taylor, who announced she was retiring at the end of this season.
“Nobody wants this to be Penny’s last game. We want her to keep going and go out with a championship in her last season,” she said.
Indeed, it was her last game and this team has been making a habit of ending careers.
The Sky host the Sparks on Tuesday, 7 PM central time.