The last place San Antonio Stars gave the first place Minnesota Lynx everything they could handle Sunday night in St. Paul. After three quarters the Stars led by seven points and looked primed to get their first 'W' in the most improbable of ways- on the road against Minnesota. Thankfully a different Lynx team took the court for the fourth quarter, outscoring the Stars 31-19 in the frame and sending the opposition back to Texas with their winless record intact. However, Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve believes the Stars are better than their rank in the standings.
"We were fully aware of how well San Antonio was playing. We watched a ton of video, so we we’re not surprised at the things that they got done." Reeve explained after the game. "I think we have an understanding of the parity of this league. There's a couple of players over there that are some of the best players in the league. It's a team that's trying to figure things out and they are playing well."
The first three quarters of this game were a disjointed and messy affair. The officials were not shy about blowing the whistle as they called 27 personal fouls in the first 30 minutes of play. All of these stoppages created a choppy game that never had a chance to get into any sort of flow. San Antonio made the evening even more difficult for Minnesota by taking care of the ball. They lead the WNBA in turnovers per game at 17.2, but notched their lowest turnover total of the season with only ten giveaways.
According to Synergy Sports, The Minnesota Lynx have the second best pick and roll defense in the league by points per possession at .707, but have now struggled to contain Moriah Jefferson for the second time this season. The second year guard out of Connecticut sliced and split the Lynx at the point of attack all evening. She found her way into the paint countless times and either dished to open teammates or finished the play herself and had a team high 16 points as well as 6 assists with no turnovers. Reeve credited Rene Montgomery's defense on Jefferson as a catalyst for the Lynx fourth quarter comeback.
"Rene Montgomery changed the course of what was happening with Moriah Jefferson, her ball pressure got to Moriah. We adjusted in the PnR...we were getting absolutely destroyed...and we said we can’t just keep doing the same thing, and Rene gave us a chance to play a little bit differently."
In addition to ratcheting up the defensive intensity, the Lynx two best players took turns scoring the ball on the other end. Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles each scored 13 points in the final quarter. They also made seven of the team's eight FGs and nine of their 12 FTs in the fourth.
Fowles first three quarters: 9 pts, 6 rbs, 3/4 FG, 3/4 FT, 4 PF
Fowles fourth quarter: 13 pts, 4 rbs, 3/3 FG, 7/7 FT, 0 PF
Moore first three quarters: 9 pts, 3/4 FG, 1/2 3FG, 4 TO
Moore fourth quarter: 13 pts, 4/8 FG, 3/3 3FG, 1 TO
Big Syl had a number of questionable calls go against her in this game. She spent most of the game on the bench with foul trouble. Even after playing the entire fourth, she only played a total of 25 minutes. Maya Moore talked about the importance of Fowles staying engaged.
"The battle tonight was on many levels, not just the physical battle of playing, but mentally staying engaged, focused through some things we didn’t agree with. We don’t win the game for many reasons, but especially if she doesn’t stay hungry, determined and focused." Moore said post game.
Most of this one was not pretty. Thankfully the Lynx played one fantastic quarter and it was enough to win the game.
Lynx backup big Natasha Howard had her best game of the season. 8 points, 4 rebs, 3 blocks, 1 steal. She's such a versatile defender. Very fun to watch on that end of the ball.
The Kelsey Plum situation in San Antonio is getting strange. She played four minutes Sunday, her season low. If the Stars were fighting for a playoff spot and Plum was contributing to a functional bench unit, that would be one thing, instead they are winless through 13 games. Where is the downside to throwing the keys to the car at the number one overall draft pick/supposed future of the WNBA?
Maya Moore has now scored 20+ points in four straight games. Everyone can relax now, her shots are starting to fall. Asked after the game about this, Maya said, "this is normal for me."
Minnesota heads to Phoenix on Friday for Fowles v. Griner vol 1. It's a 9pm CT tip. Nothing like some late night WNBA!