Camp Day is a magical event that comes around once every Lynx season. It’s a day where the Lynx organization graciously donates thousands of tickets to metro area day camps. Dozens of busses drop off elementary aged kids adorned in matching, brightly-colored T-shirts at the Xcel Energy Center to enjoy a professional basketball game. On Wednesday afternoon, the Minnesota Lynx put on a show for these campers and gave them something to scream about.
(Correction: I've been notified the tickets are not given away but rather sold to the camps and is a big business day for the team.)
An announced attendance of 17,834 witnessed the game against the Wings. I’d guess about 10,000 of those people were kids. Camp day gets loud. Seasoned fans, arena staff and media know to pack earplugs, and with the Lynx pummeling the Wings 100-74, there were lots of opportunities for the young crowd to use their vocal chords. Maya Moore was asked after the game what she thought of the unique group of fans.
“Youthful! It was loud, mainly when the other team was shooting free throws, so we tried not to put them on the free throw line too much,” she said.
Minnesota did succeed in keeping Dallas off the charity stripe. The Wings only attempted 18 free throws the entire afternoon, nine less than their WNBA leading average of 27.1 FTA per game. Karima Christmas-Kelly and Kayla Thornton, two of their players who generally live at the free throw line, were held to just three combined attempts. Offensively, this is one of Dallas’ lone strengths, and the Lynx eliminated it.
All Star starters Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles kickstarted the Lynx in the first quarter, scoring 17 of the team’s 31 points. The Lynx were able to get up by double digits in the opening quarter and never look back. Dallas’ defense, especially in the paint, was a disaster and never gave the Wings a shot in this game. Minnesota outscored Dallas 48-28 in the paint as Fowles was her usual dominant self. She made 10 of 11 shots (all in the paint) on her way to 24 points.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve explained postgame how they were able to get into the heart of the Dallas defense. “The Dallas Wings are 12th [in the league] in protecting the paint,” she said. “So [we focused on] being persistent, understanding your opponent. We had a mindset of trying to play through the 24-second clock. Don’t get too anxious, don’t take bad shots. The more you move them, the more open it was going to be in the paint.”
Clearly frustrated, Wings head coach Fred Williams commented on the dilemma of trying to protect the paint against Minnesota. “You can’t guard [Sylvia Fowles] one-on-one; you can’t double down off of Maya and give her three; you can’t double off the type of players they have on that team … you probably just need to get about 20 defensive three-second calls, and clog up the middle.”
Minnesota put forth one of their more complete, wire-to-wire games of the year in front of all those kids. Lynx players should feel good about a performance like that as the team goes into the All Star break, even if their ears were ringing as they left the area.
The Lynx locker room was quite festive after the win. Maya Moore had to turn down Natasha Howard’s bluetooth speaker pumping out throwback soul songs before she spoke to the media.
There are lots of great hyphenated last names in the WNBA. Wings forward Karima Christmas-Kelly probably has my favorite.
All Star weekend in Seattle! Four of the 11 roster spots are occupied by Minnesota players: Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson. The game airs live on Saturday at 2:30CT on ABC.