The matchup between Phoenix and Minnesota used to be the marquee rivalry in the WNBA. The two teams met in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015 conference finals. But ever since sweeping the Mercury in that 2015 series, the Lynx had won the eight straight regular season games against Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and company.
That streak was broken Friday night at Target Center as Phoenix won the game 95-85.
Disappointing fourth quarters are becoming an upsetting trend for the Lynx. Once again the team wilted with the game on the line. The first 80 seconds were promising. Down five points to start the quarter, Maya Moore found Sylvia Fowles in pick and roll for a layup, the Lynx defense then forced a shot clock violation, and finally Tanisha Wright hit a corner three. Timeout Phoenix.
With the game tied 75-75 Minnesota needed to take the lead and continue their run. Instead Taurasi made back-to-back three pointers, the Lynx turned the ball over and Briann January hit two free throws. The Mercury never looked back.
“Don’t abandon ship”, was the mindset Brittney Griner recalled having at that pivotal juncture in the game. “We know Minnesota is a good team and they’re gonna make runs. We knew it was coming. The crowd was gonna get behind them. We just had to take a second, wait and keep doing what we were doing. We just had to respond and correct some things.”
Too Open, Too Often
Friday night was very likely the worst defensive performance from the Lynx thus far. They simply allowed their opponent to get too many easy looks. Or, to use a Cheryl Reeve-ism, they were not “hard to play against.” The game was a high scoring affair in general but Minnesota couldn’t get consistent stops at any point.
The Mercury “big three” took turns dominating each quarter. Taurasi had 12 in the first, DeWanna Bonner had 13 in the second, Griner had eight in the third and Taurasi took them home with eight in the fourth.
The low post battle between Griner and Fowles is always something to behold. It’s been a long time since Griner could say that she won that battle but she totally outplayed Fowles in this game. Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello after the game.
“Syl has had her number and made it hard for her to get the ball early with the three-quarter fronting and us not getting the right angles to get it in. But BG was persistent.”
The Lynx are still looking to put together a 40 minute stretch of elite offense and defense. The rotation is still clearly in flux as coach Reeve essentially only played seven players Friday night. The Lynx now must hit the road for another three game trip as they continue to search for answers.
Minnesota didn’t lose three games once last season.
Taurasi is a treat to interview. I’ve had the privilege of putting a microphone in front of her a few times now and she’s always interesting, personable and open.
Tanisha Wright had her best offensive night in a Lynx uniform with 15 points and four dimes. If you’re looking for a bright spot in this messy early-season, its Wright and Danielle Robinson off the bench.
Sunday night at Staples Center the Lynx will look for revenge against the Los Angeles Sparks. The game tips off at 4pm CT. You can watch on WNBA League Pass and be heard on BOB 105 FM.