Less than a week ago it was announced that Thursday’s Lynx/Mystics game would be moved up three hours to accommodate a Washington Capitals Stanley Cup Finals viewing party. In addition to the new tip off time, the game would be combined with the viewing party and made free and open to the public. This created an extremely unique situation that saw diehard Capitals supporters slowly filling Capital One Arena throughout the game. By the fourth quarter the arena was nearly full of hockey fans cheering loudly for their local WNBA team.
The combination of Mystics and Capitals fans were treated to a well-played close game. Minnesota avoided their recent trend of disappointing fourth quarters instead finishing strong with an 11-3 run to close out the game and escape the strange scene. Sylvia Fowles had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Maya Moore added 19 points of her own. For Washington, Natasha Cloud lead the way with 17 points and 9 assists.
This game was decided on the glass. Minnesota out-rebounded Washington 34 to 20. The Lynx converted those rebounds into a 20-0 second chance points advantage.
Sylvia Fowles was fantastic and lead all scorers with 21 points, but it was her 12 rebounds (eight on the offensive end) that propelled the Lynx to win. Cleaning the glass was truly a team effort with the Minnesota starting five accounting for 30 of the team’s 34 rebounds. The Lynx were effective in closing out defensive possessions by only allowing the Mystics three offensive boards. Its a lot easier to win a game when your opponent essentially only shoots one shot per possession over the course of an entire game. Team defense and offense have waxed and wained in these first eight games, but Minnesota’s rebounding has been solid all season.
After missing Sunday’s game in Los Angeles, Tanisha Wright re-joined the team and played wonderfully on Thursday. Her energy and activity do not fit the profile of a typical 34 year old, 13 year veteran. She has consistently showcased the depth of her game to her new team this season. Wright scored 13 points in a season-high 25 minutes against the Mystics. Known primarily for her defensive acumen, Wright has been surprisingly dynamic on the offensive end. She’s 7-10 from the three point line and has shown great instincts with the ball in her hands in pick and roll. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve even felt comfortable enough with Wright that she made her the defacto point guard for the game’s final two and a half minutes.
The Right Mix
The decision to roll with Wright at point guard in crunch time is just one of many signs that the recipe is still being perfected. On Tuesday the Lynx rounded out their 12 man roster by signing Endy Miyem, the final player “cut” from their preseason training camp. Wright and Danielle Robinson have separated themselves as the first two players off the bench. Meanwhile Alexis Jones, Cecilia Zandalasini and Lynetta Kizer seem to have less-certain roles that can vary on a game-to-game basis. Thankfully for Minnesota they have enough high-end talent to pick up enough wins while the team finds its way.
Minnesota has broken their four game losing streak and briefly calmed their fans. 14 days is an awfully long time for this franchise to go without a win. Beating a quality team on the road will be good for the Lynx confidence. Maybe this will be the beginning of a different kind of streak.
Minnesota experimented more than usual with switching Brunson onto guards in pick and roll coverage. This is something to watch going forward. Especially as Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus struggle to stay in front of their man on the perimeter.
Elena Delle Donne played in this game after missing the previous 4.5 games with an undisclosed sickness. She looked good out there despite all the missed time.
Miyem saw her first WNBA minutes only a day after the team announced her signing. It’s unlikely she’ll see the floor much this season, but its nice to have 12 players on roster for the final 3/4ths of the year.
Given the circumstances, its a bummer that the WNBA got bumped in favor of the Capitals viewing party, but it is pretty cool that Washington did indeed end up winning the Stanley Cup Finals Thursday night. It was their first title in franchise history.
Minnesota closes out their three game road trip against the team with the best record in the WNBA- the Connecticut Sun. The game takes place on Saturday at 1pm CT. You can watch on NBATV or listen at BOB 106 FM.