Having won the past two games against good, but not great WNBA teams (Liberty and Wings), Friday’s matchup with the Phoenix Mercury was a good litmus test of the Lynx recently improved play. Going into this game Phoenix had the best record in the league behind strong play from their “big 3” Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner and DeWanna Bonner. Minnesota used a balanced, hot shooting night to defeat the Mercury 83-72, increasing their win streak to three and restoring faith in their 2018 campaign.
Shoot Your Shot
Despite shooting a similar percentage to their recent games (45%) the Lynx were red hot in Phoenix, especially from the mid range. They missed a number of shots in the paint that dragged their overall percentage down, but made up for it by making it rain from everywhere else. Maya Moore was the main culprit, leading all scorers with 23 points on 9-19 shooting, but Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen also had their jump shots going as they combined for 29 points.
The offense was operating nicely as the ball moved from side to side and found open players coming off screens for shots. Sylvia Fowles had a quiet scoring night with only 11 points on eight shot attempts, but it was the attention paid to her that often led to her teammates having open looks at the rim. Minnesota also was efficient from distance with five different Lynx players hitting at least one three point shot.
Forcing Mistakes, Again
For the third straight game Minnesota has forced at least 17 turnovers from their opposition. The Lynx have hung their hat on defense for many years and this edition of the team seems to be hitting their stride on that end of the floor. Once again the Lynx set a season high mark for steals in a game with 13.
The Mercury simply tried too hard to force the basketball into Brittney Griner. The Phoenix center had a nice game on paper with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but Minnesota’s help defense brought well-timed double teams to her. This created tough passing angles and crowded the paint. Phoenix couldn’t help themselves and consistently turned the ball over looking for passes that simply were not there. The Lynx get credit for mucking things up, but the Mercury compounded their issues by not taking care of the ball. Those turnovers led to fast break opportunities for Minnesota. Furthermore, the Lynx had 11 more field goal attempts than the Mercury in this game.
Phoenix used a large free throw attempt advantage to cut the 21 point lead to only eight with 4:30 left in the fourth quarter. Instead of giving into the pressure and allowing another fourth quarter letdown, Minnesota buckled down on defense and closed out the game.
The Lynx now have the WNBA’s longest win streak at three games.
Phoenix Mercury color analyst Ann Meyers Drysdale is not highly regarded within WNBA fan circles, but I really enjoy play by play guy Tom Leander. Especially when he describes three pointers as “from far away.”
Whalen had her best scoring game of the season scoring 15 points. She also had season high marks in FGM (six) and steals (five). Teams are going to go underneath screens on her. She can look to step into that midrange shot.
The desert road trip continues as Minnesota will play their first ever game against the Las Vegas Aces on Sunday. The game tips at 5pm CT. You can watch on NBATV and listen on BOB 106 FM.