August continues to be a seesaw-type month for the Minnesota Lynx. The team just finished a four game in seven night stretch that found the team twice using a dispiriting road loss to propel them to a subsequent home blowout victory. After losing to the Storm in Seattle last week, the Lynx throttled the Fever by 59 points. This week, Minnesota returned home following a loss in New York to hand the Phoenix Mercury a 36 point beat down.
The differences between New York and Phoenix at this point in the season are stark. The Liberty have an elite defense and a superstar in Tina Charles who brings it every single night. The Mercury are a subpar defensive team who’s two stars Diana Taurasi and Brittney Griner are prone to inconsistencies.
Phoenix failed to play adequate defense inside, outside or in transition on Tuesday night. Inside, Sylvia Fowles had all sorts of time and space to operate. Outside, Lynx guards consistently found themselves wide open from three and made 12 long range shots, the most in a single game since 2013. Minnesota turned 20 Phoenix turnovers into 27 points with 11 of those points coming in transition. Finally, a defensive possession is not complete until the defending team secures a rebound, something Phoenix could not accomplish all night as Minnesota snatched 12 offensive rebounds for 18 second chance points. Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello lamented her team’s poor defense after the game.
“Better teams are way better than us at the moment,” she said. “We have to go and find a way to get back and we’ve got to play better defense. The best teams can keep Minnesota to 61 and we keep them to 100 so obviously we’re not a very good defensive team at the moment.”
The Minnesota Lynx ARE a very good defensive team at the moment. In fact, they’re the best in the league. This is something that has not changed since losing Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson to injury. Their defense, save for a few rocky quarters here and there has been stellar in August. Fowles is literally at the center of it all, especially on Tuesday night, tasked with checking her biggest rival, fellow MVP candidate Brittney Griner. Fowles battled hard all night and successfully “fronted” Griner, making it difficult for her to catch the ball. After the game Cheryl Reeve complimented the team effort.
“I thought our permitter defense really applied the ball pressure that was necessary to make it hard to throw anything easy in there. Sly made her touches hard. Overall thats why Syl’s the MVP and the Defensive Player of the Year. She’s just so hard to play against.”
Minnesota controlled this game from the opening tip and grew their lead steadily throughout the night. They won the first quarter by six points as Fowles scored eight in the opening frame. A ten point advantage was created in the second by Maya Moore who had nine of her game high 21 points in the quarter. The second half was all about the bench who poured in 34 of their total 45 points, most coming from Jia Perkins and rookie Alexis Jones who combined to go 6-8 from three.
At 4-4 on the month, the team needs to remove themselves from the constant ups and downs of August. They’ll have to do it on the road as they embark on their final regular season road trip of the year. A three game slate that will take them to San Antonio, Los Angeles and Indianapolis.
Natasha Howard had one of her best games of the season. She even hit a three! Prior to that long-ball she had been 2-12 on the season from range.
Diana Taurasi hardly made any impact at all in this game. She had five points on four shots and logged her lowest minute total of the season with 17. Brondello chalked it up to fatigue saying she’s “put a lot of miles on the tires lately.”
The 36 point margin of victory is the largest win against Phoenix in franchise history.
On Monday night rumors from European sports websites reported that 21 year old Italian forward Cecilia Zandalasini would be making her way to the United States to play for the Minnesota Lynx. Asked about signing Zandalasini before the game Reeve didn’t want to comment saying “I don’t have any information on that.” Minutes later I spotted Zandalasini sitting court side speaking to team staffers. It appears the newest member of the Lynx has arrived in the state Minnesota.
The Lynx face the Stars in San Antonio on Friday. You can watch the game for free on Twitter.com.