Sylvia Fowles and Brittney Griner have been the two best players in the WNBA this year. Somehow, seven weeks of the season elapsed before their respective teams faced each other. While Minnesota escaped Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix Friday night, with a 91-83 win, the heavyweight MVP battle left fans wanting more.
Over the course of this era of Lynx basketball their biggest rival has been the Phoenix Mercury. While one could make an argument for the LA Sparks (especially given how last season ended), Phoenix has been the more consistent threat to the Minnesota winning titles over the last five years. This season’s edition of the Mercury looks nothing like the teams Lynx fans are used to rooting against. Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner (as well as head coach Sandy Brondello) are the only recognizable faces from Phoenix’s past.
Despite personnel changes, there is no love lost between these teams. Friday night’s game started off as a very chippy and physical affair. Both head coaches were whistled for technical fouls early on. The officials quickly took control of the game as both Fowles and Griner found themselves on the bench, each with two personal fouls in the first four minutes of play. Our MVP showdown was short circuited.
Unlike Griner, Fowles did not pick up her third foul in the second quarter and without Brittney on the floor to guard her, she went to work. Sylvia played all but 90 seconds of the quarter scoring 11 points and grabbing four boards. Minnesota used a first half 10-6 offensive rebounding advantage to best Phoenix 13-2 in second chance points. The newly-bleach blonde Griner could only ride the pine and wait for the second half to begin.
The game turned into a more open and free-flowing contest after halftime. Perimeter scoring picked up as Fowles and Griner were able to stay on the court and neutralize each other for the most part. Sylvia Fowles didn’t attempt her first shot of the half until the 5:30 mark of the fourth quarter. After putting up a paltry 10 points in the third quarter, the Lynx exploded for 32 points in the final frame. Maya Moore led the way hitting four of five shots and scoring 10 of her game high 21 points. The Lynx won a game despite facing a deficit in the fourth quarter for the second game in a row. Their attitude and resolve in these situations has been impressive but also expected given the experience and continuity on this roster.
Overall the battle of the bigs was good, but not great. They didn’t guard each other much in the first half, and the second half was marred by Lynx turnovers and a lack of post touches for either team. Nevertheless, we’re watching two of the greatest two-way post players the league has ever seen at the peak of their powers. I’m already looking forward to the rematch.
-Diana Taurasi is not shy about shooting the basketball. She is the very definition of a volume scorer, leading the WNBA in average 3PM (3.4) and 3PA (8.8). She didn’t have it in this game shooting 4-11 including 1-7 from three in the first half and only going 1-3 for three points in the second half.
-Recently Taurasi broke the WNBA all-time scoring record. To mark the occasion as her new status as the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time), the Phoenix Mercury game operations staff set up a goat petting zoo in the lower bowl of Talking Stick Resort Arena on Friday night. *Goat Emoji*
-For the second straight game Lindsay Whalen has struggled in pick and roll coverage trying to corral a much quicker player. Last week it was the Stars’ Moriah Jefferson and Friday it was Danielle Robinson. Thankfully Cheryl Reeve has a much more capable perimeter defender in Renee Montgomery on the bench.
-2017 WNBA Schedule Quirk #341: The Lynx and Mercury play all three of their regular season games over the course of 17 days. These teams play a home/away set on 7/14 and 7/16.
WNBA Finals Rematch! The world champion Los Angeles Sparks come to Xcel Energy Center on Thursday night.