The Lynx entered the night with the potential to take sole possession of first place in the league. They were hosting the Washington Mystics, a team that embarrassed them previously on June 26.
It wasn’t pretty offensively, but they had a three-point lead with 45 seconds to go. That’s when Maya Moore took the ball from Lindsay Whalen, falling down as she went left, then got up and sealed the game with the silkiest of jumpers. “It was all by design,” head coach Cheryl Reeve quipped after the game. Even when Maya falters, she really doesn’t. The team grinded out the win from there, with the final score at 75-69.
Early in the first it was clear the team was trying to get Sylvia Fowles going. She was aggressive in the paint, constantly fighting for position against Meesseman and whoever the Mystics tried to throw at her. Even when they sent double-teams, it didn’t matter, as she scored seven points as Minnesota took an early 11-4 lead. The Lynx were pressing on defense from the get-go and they didn’t allow a three the whole quarter, which is what the Mystics killed them with last time. In that game, they made six threes in the first quarter alone and it was over before you could blink.
The Lynx primary bench players came in and the team sputtered. They had three straight possessions with a turnover, the last one coming off a timeout where head coach Cheryl Reeve was visibly frustrated with her team’s play. This prompted Reeve to bring back Whalen and Seimone Augustus to calm things down. The bleeding stopped but the Lynx ended the quarter with only a three-point lead, 24-21, after dominating early.
In the second, the team relied on Fowles again, but not for her scoring. She tallied seven more rebounds, giving her 12 in the half and the importance of that cannot be understated. The Lynx were able to get nine second chance points, much thanks to her. The lead ballooned to 13 as all of the bounces started going the Lynx way. Three minutes in, Moore drove the lane and tried to kick it back out. The ball went off a Mystic’s player, then through another one’s legs and found Fowles who proceeded to hit Augustus for the open jumper. Then, “Big Syl” lived up to her name as she had a monster rejection on Tayler Hill, followed by an offensive board on the next play which led to a Janel McCarville jumper. Maya got hot as she tallied nine points in the quarter and she led all scorers with a total of 14 in the first half.
It looked as if the Lynx were going to run away with it at that point but Washington was able to get the deficit back to single digits as they trailed 43-34 at half. They had to change something or they would not be able to get back in it.
Coming out of the half, the Mystics defense was intent on stopping the Lynx. Clearly they had figured something out. They trapped players and didn’t give them any space. They caused a turnover, a shot-clock violation and drew an offensive foul against Moore in the first three possessions. The Lynx weren’t able to see an open look until well into the half. They were still able to maintain distance early with great defense of their own, their lead growing even, but the Mystics defense wouldn’t quit. They crawled back as the Lynx shot 3-13, scoring 12 points, and had eight turnovers. It was an ugly quarter for the whole team, and their lead had dwindled down to four going into the final frame.
The offensive woes didn’t quit in the fourth. It was a tight game the rest of the way with the Lynx scoring primarily from the stripe. They made only seven field goals in the entire half, shooting 26 percent, but they did make 18 of 20 free throws. It’s a testament to the team’s defense that they were able to win this game and they wouldn’t have been able to do it without Fowles. She finished with 15 points and 17 boards but her game goes beyond the box score.
“The things that don’t show up in the stat sheet are her deflections, her denials in the posts, her switching and redirecting,” Reeve said after the game. “Last game, Lindsay Whalen willed us to win. This game Sylvia Folwes willed us to win.”
You can’t forget about Moore. She had 27 points, 12-13 from the free throw line, and her play at the end of the game sealed it. She had six boards that all seemed to come at crucial moments. Those two accounted for 70 minutes of a possible 80, and the Lynx needed every single one of them.
The team hosts the Connecticut Sun on Sunday at 6 PM.