Thanks to a stone cold, go-ahead mid-range jumper with five seconds left in the game by Seimone Augustus, and a missed free throw by Skyler Diggins-Smith, the Lynx are still unbeaten in 2017. But for the second time in three games, it wasn't easy and it wasn't pretty. Once again, the Minnesota Lynx faced some early season adversity.
The Dallas Wings were fired up for their home opener after a big win in Phoenix on Thursday night. With a new-look roster surrounding Diggins-Smith that includes five rookies, the Wings seem ready to move on from their 11-23 campaign last season that included an 11-game losing streak. Dallas played the Lynx even in the first quarter before Minnesota used a sterling defensive effort and an avalanche of free throws to build a 12-point halftime lead. Overall, it was a sloppy, slow affair that featured 61 attempted free throws and 34 turnovers between the two teams. The game never had a chance to get into a groove as broken plays and referee whistles obstructed the momentum throughout the night.
On-ball pressure has given Lynx guards issues in the past and that weakness was present again in this game. Diggins-Smith hounded Whalen, particularly in the third quarter, forcing a litany of turnovers and shot-clock violations. Minnesota compounded this by playing their worst defensive quarter of the young season as their typically stellar transition defense simply fell apart. They had issues matching up and stopping the ball as Wings guards pushed the pace. In the end, a game that featured the league’s oldest team (average age 30.7) vs. the youngest team (average age 24.7), the Lynx's experience and poise won out.
Sylvia Fowles was the best player on the court for the third game in a row. Last season's defensive player of the year has picked up where she left off in 2016, altering shots all night and getting the biggest block of the game on Diggins-Smith immediately preceding Augustus' game winner. On the offensive end, it's not hyperbole to say she is unstoppable against any single defender. She's a master at sealing her man. In the scenario where her defender manages to front her in the post, almost all of her teammates are capable of throwing a pillowy lob pass over the top. Her line tonight: 27 points, 13 rebounds (eight offensive) two blocks, an assist, and 11/12 front the free throw line. *Fire Emoji*
-Rebekkah Brunson pulled down her 3,000th career rebound. She's only the 5th player to do that in the history of the league. She's now nine rebounds away from passing former teammate Taj McWilliams-Franklin for 4th on the all-time rebound list.
-Speaking of her, it was great to see Mama Taj on Wings bench as an assistant coach. I'm sure the WNBA legend would have liked to get that win against the Lynx.
-Plenette Pierson has already been the subject of multiple flagrant/technical foul call reviews. She’s intense on defense and it looks like she can get under opponents' skin. I like it.
-The words "Lynx" and "Wings" sound a lot alike. It was difficult to hear the difference on the broadcast at times.
-Only three made baskets by the Lynx bench in this game. The team is talented enough that it can still win games without much offensive production from the reserves, but it will make this season so much easier if they can rely on bench scoring on a nightly basis.
-I love the Wings' model of playing in a smaller arena in Arlington instead of the American Airlines Arena in Dallas. I'd imagine its players would rather play in a packed, smaller building than an 2/3 empty large arena. The optics are better for the league and it seems to be creating more of a college atmosphere.
Back at home on Tuesday to take on the Connecticut Sun. I'll be in the house at Xcel Energy Center getting my first look at the team in person.