The Lynx entered last night's game on a three-game losing skid. Those losses were defined by poor defense, as the team gave up an average of 92 points per game during that stretch. It was highly uncharacteristic, as the team is second overall in team defense, trailing only the L.A. Sparks.
Last night, Minnesota returned to form as they demolished the San Antonio Stars, 91-68. The Lynx held their opponents to 33.3 percent shooting from the field while forcing 12 turnovers. They found that championship level defense that had gone missing.
It helped that the Stars were playing in their second game in as many days. They won the previous night in a thrilling overtime where Moriah Jefferson made a put-back lay up as time expired.
This one didn't even come close to going an extra frame. The Lynx never trailed in the game and as halftime arrived, they were looking at a 19-point lead. They dominated the paint, the boards, and on the fast break. All of that stemmed from their defense.
"Whenever we defend, our field goal percentage is higher. [It's because we're] playing with flow," Cheryl Reeve commented in the post-game press conference. They were trapping players on pick and rolls and suffocated the Stars when they tried to go inside. The team shot 52.3 percent from the field and made 21 of 24 free throw attempts.
The team looked focused early on. When Jayne Appel-Marinelli went out early with two fouls, the Lynx took advantage with Sylvia Fowles. She had seven points, six rebounds and two blocks in the first quarter alone and the tone was set.
It was an all-around effort from the team as the bench scored 44 points, Natasha Howard chipping in with a game-high of 21. She has really found her role here in Minnesota. Howard and Renee Montgomery have great chemistry together and that showed up in the first quarter.
With the Lynx up just two points, Howard set a pick for Montgomery, rolled to the hoop on a great cut and was able to make the easy bucket. On the next possession, Howard ended up with the ball in the post with her back to the hoop, shimmied the defender and dished it back out to Montgomery who drained the three. "She's exceptional, off the block, on the block and she's fast. She's really fast and plays really, really hard. We've enjoyed that from her," Reeve said of Howard's play after the game.
The game got out of hand fast and at one point the Lynx had a 32-point lead. It was refreshing to see the team back to its old ways. When Howard was going off, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen were dancing with delight on the sidelines. These blowouts are important for the team as they have four players who will compete in the Olympics later this summer. These types of wins allow those players to play limited minutes to keep them fresh all year.
Moore ended the game with 14 points and five assists. Whalen had 12 points while going 8-8 from the stripe. Howard ended with 21 points, four rebounds and three blocks.
Seimone Augustus only scored four points but she was tied with Fowles for the best plus/minus of the game at +24. Jia Perkins tallied 14 points and four rebounds.
Rebekkah Brunson had her 107th career game with double-digit rebounds (12) and added eight points. She needs only nine more offensive rebounds to move into second place all-time in that category. Former Lynx player Taj McWilliams-Franklin is the leader in that category at 1062.
I am glad the team was able to end the losing streak before the holiday. Let's hope they stay safe this weekend as they take on Elena Delle Donne and the Chicago Sky on Tuesday, July 5th at home.