Four games into the season and the Minnesota Lynx have had to play their biggest rival twice.
The Phoenix Mercury hosted the rematch last night and though they were voted most likely to win it all this year, they had yet to win a game entering this one. The defending champion Lynx kept them without a win after almost blowing the game with double-digit turnovers in the fourth quarter.
The Lynx were up 66-52 early in the fourth but Phoenix stormed back with a 14 point run to tie it up with 4:37 left to play in the game. Penny Taylor for the Mercury absolutely went off, bringing her team back after the Lynx held a comfortable lead throughout most of the contest. Taylor scored 18 of her 25 points in the fourth by making threes the old-fashioned way as well as the new-fashioned way. She was unstoppable late, and Phoenix was down only three when Diana Taurasi forced up a bad three with sufficient time left to shoot. That pretty much ended the game as Minnesota made four more free throws and went on to win 85-78.
Just like opening night between these two teams, Brittney Griner picked up quick fouls early in the first quarter. I'm not exactly sure why the coaches let her play with two, as they paid for it when she got her third only five minutes into the game. Phoenix struggled to defend Sylvia Fowles after that, as the Lynx center had 14 points and six rebounds in the first half. They eventually figured out how to defend Fowles, and they needed to as Griner had the worst game of her career. She fouled out in the fourth after playing 21 minutes while tallying only four points, two rebounds and two blocks. She didn't score or grab a rebound in the first half.
Both Griner and Taurasi were visibly frustrated with the amount of fouls Phoenix was picking up. While the refs were a bit whistle-happy at times, the Mercury players' vexation had more to do with how well the Lynx were playing them defensively. The Lynx would not let Taurasi get an open shot and it showed as the leading scorer of the WNBA went 3-15 from the field, finishing with a season-low 12 points. Minnesota has had great team defense throughout the year and they are third in the league in points allowed. They have been switching well on pick and rolls and it helps to have such a veteran team with a high IQ.
The Lynx bench wasn't a huge factor this game but they didn't need to be as Maya Moore stole the show. The former MVP is campaigning for a second term as she scored 34 points, grabbed four rebounds and swiped the ball two times. She overtakes Taurasi as the WNBA scoring leader at 25 points per game now.
Moore has been carrying the Lynx all year, to no one's surprise. She hit clutch shots throughout the game, including a three with two hands in her face after Phoenix's big run in the last quarter to calm things down. She missed her first two free throws of the game but went on to hit nine straight as she kept attacking the basket.
Seimone Augustus had only six points and five turnovers but the Lynx didn't need her as Moore and Fowles did just enough to bring them to victory. Lindsay Whalen had a good all-around game with six points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. It must be nice having four Olympians to spread all the stats around.
Minnesota has another kind of rematch next up at home on Friday. They play the Indiana Fever, who they beat in the finals last year, as they look to continue their unbeaten start.