The San Antonio Stars came to St. Paul on Sunday looking to break a losing streak that dates back to 2010. The amount of times they've lost in Minnesota adds up to a baker's dozen — 13. Ouch. The Lynx, powered by their depth and second half defense, had other plans.
The opening 10 minutes were a clean quarter of basketball. Both teams were red hot and had assists to go along with each made basket. Only one foul was called in the opening frame and turnovers were low. San Antonio set their season high for points in a quarter with 26. The complexion of the game turned when the Lynx bench entered the game with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
"Our subs came in and put out the fire that the starters had started with our opponent as far as not playing defense, and they scored a lot of points early and I thought our second group came in and really doused the fire," Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said about that stretch.
Their longer-than-usual stint lasted until the five-minute mark of the second quarter. Sunday night, the Lynx reserves demonstrated why they're the best in the league. Most of them would start on almost any other team in the WNBA. All four of them are outstanding defenders who also have the ability to keep the offense afloat. The group is especially potent when paired with a pure scorer like Seimone Augustus. The bench will improve as the season goes on and as the team continues to assimilate veteran forward Plenette Pierson. This should terrify the rest of the league. Somehow, this Death Star is not yet fully operational.
Minnesota came out of the locker room determined to lock down their opponent, who made a lot of shots in the first half.
"It felt like in the first quarter, they made every shot, so we had to turn it up. We had to get closer, get more aggressive and active," Lindsay Whalen said post game.
The Lynx did just that, holding the Stars to just eight points in the third quarter.
San Antonio could not hold onto the ball. They turned it over eight times in the quarter, after having eight combined turnovers in the entire first half. Minnesota suffocated San Antonio early in the half and used an 18-4 run to blow the game wide open. The Stars simply could not recover as the turnovers mounted and their shots stopped falling.
-Cheryl Reeve called the energy in St. Paul "flat" after Tuesday's game against Connecticut. This issue was remedied Sunday night as a lively Memorial Day weekend crowd brought lots of life and noise to the game.
-Kelsey Plum, the 2017 number one overall draft pick, had another dud of a game in only her second WNBA contest. She played five minutes, turned the ball over twice and did not make a shot from the field. Granted, she is coming back from an ankle injury sustained in the preseason. Her inability to impact games is a big reason the Stars are the league's final winless team.
-Sylvia Fowles welcomed Hopkins-native and WNBA rookie Nia Coffey back to Minnesota by aggressively blocking her shot and sending Coffey to the hardwood late in the 2nd quarter. "She hit me in the face and I took it personal," Big Syl recounted after the game.
-After playing six games in the first 15 days of the season, the Lynx will now play only three games in the next 15 days. A welcome break for the oldest team in the league.
Saturday night vs. the Seattle Storm. The Lynx have all week to prepare for Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart and the second best team in the league so far.