It had been 13 days since Minnesota last played at home, but it felt much longer than that. The Lynx had a great three-game road trip and were able to come home unscathed. Sitting at 4-0, and a half game behind the Los Angeles Sparks (5-0) in the Western Conference standings, the team's next opponent was the Indiana Fever in a rematch of last year's finals.
Seemingly, every game thus far has been ‘a big game' for the team but head coach Cheryl Reeve is just ready to move forward. "We've celebrated our championship and we have moved on," Reeve commented before the game. "For us it's about this season and what we want to do [going forward]."
Although the Lynx have already celebrated, Devereaux Peters received her championship ring before the game and Reeve spoke kindly of the third overall pick of the 2012 draft, noting how weird it was to see her practicing on the other side.
While Reeve is not one to focus on the emotional meaning of particular games, this one really didn't feel that special before the game with the Fever not having two of their top contributors in Shenise Johnson (Concussion Protocol) and Briann January (Knee Surgery). The Fever definitely could have used their help. Ultimately, this turned out to be one of the weirdest basketball games I have ever seen with the Lynx squeaking out a 74-71 victory to remain unbeaten.
The game was a tale of two halves. Minnesota shot the lights out in the first quarter making 13-18 (72.2 percent) from the field, capped off by a Janel McCarville running three 30 feet from the basket to beat the buzzer. "Felt good, I think that might be my first three on the year and I'll take it," McCarville commented after the game. The team was excelling at driving and dishing and Maya Moore ended the game with eight assists because defenders would have to leave their assignment to help.
Meanwhile, the Fever must have come down with something before the game as they were missing almost everything. They made three of 25 field goals and the Lynx had six blocks (franchise record for a quarter) to make it 29-6 after the first. Lindsay Whalen was a perfect 5-5 with 10 points and you got the impression this game was over even knowing that the law of averages would eventually even things out for each team. It most definitely was not over as the Lynx didn't win a single quarter after the first and actually scored fewer points in the fourth (five) as Indiana did in the first (six).
The team's tied the second quarter 21-21 which still left Minnesota with a 23 point lead at half. They shot 65.6 percent to Indiana's 23.7 in the first and at that point you still thought the home team had it in the bag. Reeve took this opportunity to get the bench players some valuable minutes as Seimone Augustus was the only starter to play more than eight minutes in the second half. "The second group's got to learn how to play," Reeve responded frankly on why the second unit played so long. She talked about how people have been saying the Lynx bench was one of the best in the league and wanted to give them extended minutes to prove it. "I was really determined to not have to grind the starting group and that was really important to me," the coach added as she is aware that she has been criticized for overplaying starters.
The Fever took advantage of the bench late in the fourth as they came storming back while the Lynx were 2-12 from the field, missing all six threes they took in the last quarter. They weren't necessarily bad shots but they were coming from Jia Perkins and Renee Montgomery, two bench players that were top two in minutes last night for the Lynx. It could have been that they were getting tired legs or they could have just gone cold. Or maybe the Fever had some voodoo ritual at half time to curse the Lynx with their atrocious shooting from the first.
In reality, while McCarville had a superb game off the bench with eight points, nine rebounds and four assists, the rest of the bench flat-out struggled offensively. While the starters were moving the ball around in the first half and getting open shots by drawing multiple defenders when attacking the paint, the bench was more stagnant. They didn't drive as much and, as a result, scored only eight of the team's 24 points in the second half while playing a majority of minutes. As the Fever crawled back, everyone in the stands kept waiting and waiting and waiting for Reeve to put the starters in the game. It wasn't until it was a three point game with 33 seconds left that the coach put her starters back in the game. They played like true veterans committing a foul with one to give and then another to force the Fever to take FTs when they were down three. They made one of those and the Lynx sealed the game with one of two free throws with only seconds left.
McCarville said after the game, "Coach always talks about how it's nice to win and still be able to have teaching moments, obviously that second half was a teaching moment."
It is nice to win, Janel. And although not all of them have been pretty, the Lynx are five for five this year in that category. Next up is another away game against the New York Liberty, 7 PM CST on Tuesday.
Since you're still here, whose buzzer beater was better: McCarville's or Howard's?
Everything has gone the Lynx way in this first quarter, which ended with J. McCarville doing this..It's 29-6. Yea. pic.twitter.com/ePdHDdZE5L— Zach Bennett (@ZacharyBD) May 28, 2016
All Reeve can do is turn her head and smile after Howard hits this 3 before the buzzer. Lynx lead 50-27 at the half. pic.twitter.com/pJILz0hd8F— Zach Bennett (@ZacharyBD) May 28, 2016