It's never easy when you have to play the Phoenix Mercury. The Lynx are quite familiar with that fact as they've already had to play them three times in only eight games this year. It's even harder when a normally hot-start team shoots 26.3 percent from the field in the first half.
Minnesota started the game by going 0 for 10, and didn't get its first field goal until 3:49 left in the quarter from Janel McCarville. All year the Lynx have build large leads early on and coasted to victory but not in this one.
"If you told me we'd shot 37 percent playing Phoenix, I'd have told you we lost by 20," head coach Cheryl Reeve commented after the game.
The Mercury shot 49.2 percent. They won the rebound battle 36-28. They outscored the Lynx in the fast break and in the paint. But the Lynx did not lose by 20. They won 89-81, and remain unbeaten at 8-0, tied with the L.A. Sparks at the same mark.
It's a shame the season series is over between these two teams. Each game has been more physical than the last but Phoenix won't have another shot at redemption unless they meet in the playoffs.
In the previous two games, Brittney Griner struggled because she got into foul trouble. This game was no different, though she did at least wait until the second quarter to pick up her third foul. In fact, Sylvia Fowles played less than four minutes in the first because of two fouls of her own which allowed Griner to go off on the Lynx. She had 10 points and five rebounds at half as Phoenix took a 38-32 lead into the locker room.
Griner picked up her fourth foul halfway through the third, and then her fifth with 1:07 left in the quarter after Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello inexplicably put her back in the game. Although the Lynx had pulled the game back to within two, there was no need to risk losing your star center as she has clearly shown a lack of discipline when it comes to not fouling this team.
After she went out, Fowles went off. "It was my time to take over the game. My teammates had an understanding of how to get me the ball and where I needed to be, at the right time," Fowles said after the game. She ended with 21 points and eight rebounds and was 9-10 from the free throw line. She and Rebekkah Brunson led the Lynx come back in the second half with some help from Maya Moore as well.
Brunson got the game ball from Reeve and it was well-deserved. She scored all 12 of her points in the second half and had nine rebounds and four assists, including the one to Renee Montgomery for the dagger three to go up by eight with less than two minutes in the game. "I think the second half was dependent on our defense. We were able to get our stops and able to come back down and do what we wanted offensively and did a great job of sharing the ball," Brunson said when asked what the difference was between the two halves.
Montgomery scored 18 points and went 3-5 from deep. Maya Moore scored 21 points with six assists and four rebounds.
Despite the victory, there was some loss for the Lynx last night. Seimone Augustus got hit in the head by a Mercury elbow and has entered the league's concussion protocol. It happened early in the third quarter and appeared to be inadvertent. We will have to wait and see if she can play against the Atlanta Dream this Friday.