The 2017 WNBA regular season is about 60% over and yet Friday night was the first matchup of the year between the the Minnesota Lynx and Atlanta Dream. The two teams will complete their three game season series over the course of the next 11 days. WNBA scheduling is a wacky world.
The Dream are in somewhat of a transition season with Angel McCoughtry taking the summer off to rest her body. The All Star player has spent all eight years of her career with the Dream. It’s strange to see an Atlanta team without her. While the team has lost more games than it has won, and is a fringe playoff team, McCoughtry’s absence hasn’t been a total disaster. The Dream are more of a balanced team this season and players like Tiffany Hayes, Elizabeth Williams have grown their roles. Atlanta entered Friday’s game with the third best defense in the league.
That Atlanta defense had no answer for Sylvia Fowles and the Minnesota Lynx. Fowles looked like a player possessed on her way to 29 points on 11 of 15 shots. She also added 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 steals and 2 assists in another MVP-type performance. Alternating between man-to-man and zone coverage, the Dream defense actually kept the Lynx on the toes in the first half. Offensive philosophies and play-calling must be altered depending on the type of defense being faced. Other than a stint to end the first half where the Lynx did not make a field goal for four minutes, Minnesota was fairly successful at adapting to the ever-changing defenses that were being thrown at them. They moved the ball around to find gaps and open shots. Everything was going in as Minnesota shot 56.1% from the field, their third highest mark of the season. They assisted on 30 of their 37 made baskets. When the Lynx execute their offense at this type of level, they are nearly impossible to defeat.
Much like Tuesday’s game against New York, this game never turned into a blowout. The Dream stayed in the game by hitting timely three point shots as Minnesota looked to break the contest open. They really put themselves in a hole with live-ball turnovers and an inability to defend without fouling. Atlanta might spend their entire season taking two steps forward and one step back, but they can play a lot better. Look for them to fare better against Minnesota in their two remaining games.
The first two minutes of the fourth quarter featured a Lynx lineup of five reserves. This is a rare rotation move for coach Reeve. She will almost always have at least one starting player in the game at all times while the game is still in question. The lineup of Montgomery/Jones/Perkins/Howard/Pierson played well and went on a 6-0 run to start the quarter.
Seimone Augustus notched her second career double-double with 14 points and 10 assists.
Maya Moore went to high school in Suwanee, GA which is about 45 mins away from Atlanta. She had a nice night with 17 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast, 3 stl.
Sue Bird, Breanna Stewart and the Seattle Storm come to St. Paul for their first and only appearance at Xcel Energy Center this season.