The Minnesota Lynx are still searching for a rival in 2017. A juicy WNBA Finals rematch between the LA Sparks and the Lynx looms large two weeks from now. Every other team with championship aspirations (Liberty, Storm) have been handily dispatched by Minnesota in the first third of the season.
The Washington Mystics hope to be a part of the "contenders" conversation by the end of the season. The roster looks great on paper, and Mike Thibault's system should work fantastically, in theory. For a number of reasons, the Mystics continue to struggle to create any sort of momentum or growth this year, as they lost their 2nd straight game Friday night in St. Paul - 93-76.
Part of the reason is missing players. Emma Meesseman is busy starring for the Belgian national team at the Euros. Elena Delle Donne has missed a bit of time with injury. Ultimately this Mystics team should be very good; whether it all comes together this season remains to be seen.
Unlike the previous matchup between these teams two weeks ago, former league MVP Delle Donne suited up for Washington last night. She got off to a great start, scoring 10 points and snatching five rebounds in the opening quarter. It would end up being the only good quarter she had in the game, as Rebekkah Brunson put forth a vintage defensive performance as she guarded her. Brunson worked tirelessly to deny Delle Donne touches, let alone good shot attempts. Elena finished the game with only 17 points. Lindsay Whalen was complimentary of Brunson's defensive work.
"It's all about heart and will … it’s all her effort and intensity,” Whalen said after the game. “It's really impressive to see. We're really accustomed to it, but then she has all these tough assignments and it’'s fun to see her go to work and do what she does. … There's no one like Brunson, how hard she works and her tenacity.”
Other than letting Washington get 24 attempts from behind the arc, many of them open (though they only made eight,) Minnesota's defense was sterling for most of this game. They cleaned the defensive glass, got into passing lanes and executed weak-side help rotations well. Sylvia Fowles racked up five blocks erasing shot after shot at the rim. If the Mystics want to beat the Lynx in a series come September, they'll need to be downright historic offensively, as this Minnesota defense seems to have the antidote for just about every team, including the Mystics.
Offensively, Maya Moore had it going early, but cooled in the second half. Once again, it was the Sylvia Fowles show, as she dominated the paint on her way to 21 and 15. Her work on the offensive glass and in post up situations has laid waste to the league so far; nobody can deal with her. Her ability to get deep position using her strength and quickness is unmatched in the WNBA.
Washington head coach Mike Thibault and assistant Eric Thibault missed Friday's game to attend the funeral for their respective father and grandfather, Frank Thibault. Mystics coach Marianne Stanley filled in for Thibault.
Former Lynx assistant coach Jim Petersen and current Timberwolves franchise star Karl-Anthony Towns attended the game. They both sat courtside and stood up to talk to each other at almost every game stoppage in the second half.
Lynx rookie sharpshooter Alexis Jones played in her first non-garbage time minutes this season. She played early in the second quarter alongside Fowles, Howard, Moore and Augustus.
The crowd at Xcel Energy Center was as good as I've seen it all season. I'd expect attendance and attention to grow as the summer goes on and the team continues to win. You're probably going to want to be in the building for the July 6th matchup against Los Angeles.
Sunday night, the sorry 0-13 San Antonio Stars return to the Xcel Energy Center, where they lost to the Lynx 80-66 on May 28th.