Through the first three weeks of the season the Connecticut Sun are in a tier of their own atop the WNBA. The Sun are now 7-1 after beating Minnesota Friday night, and they’ve won five in a row. It’s not just about their record either. Frankly, the standings are a bit of a hot mess right now. Many teams are missing key players. It’s only mid-June. The Sun are just executing and rolling on another level.
This was a good “measuring stick” game for the Lynx. Connecticut has the best defense and the third best offense in the league. In certain ways, it was one of the better games of the season for Minnesota considering the opponent. It was a back and forth affair that saw 15 lead changes. Neither team really was able to get on much of a run at any point.
Ultimately the Sun offense was just too much for the Lynx. They moved the ball well and scored efficiently. Shekinna Stricklen was able to find space and hit four threes and Alyssa Thomas got to her spots both in transition and in the post. Odyssey Sims had her best offensive game of the year. She kicked it into high gear in the second half scoring 16 of her season high 25 points.
Sims brought the total package scoring in the paint (3-5 FG), at the free throw line (8-8 FT) and from beyond the arc (3-5 3FG). It was good to see a few shots go down for her. She has nice handles and court feel, but far too often this season she’s made incredible moves to get herself a good shot, only to miss badly. Her ability to score the ball is a big factor in the Lynx hitting their ceiling this season.
Connecticut took a 85-75 lead with three minutes left, and Minnesota did score the final six points in a last-ditch attempt to win the game but it was not to be. The Sun would win by four.
Surprisingly, this game was lost by Minnesota’s defense. Specifically their defense’s ability to keep players out of middle of the floor. The Lynx gave up a season high 44 points in the paint. A lot of this damage was done in transition. Both Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson cited getting mixed up on defensive assignments and identifying the ball handler as fast break issues that hurt the team.
Two other rough areas for the Lynx D: defending without fouling and closing down three point shooters. Minnesota was particularly foul prone in the opening minutes of the third quarter. They committed four personal fouls in the first 100 seconds. This allowed Connecticut to spend the entire quarter in the bonus and eventually shoot nine free throws. Also, the Lynx gave up too many open three point shots. Stricklen’s night was a little too easy and while Jonquel Jones only made one of her five attempts, she had some very good looks from three.
The Sun are the best team in the WNBA right now because of the continuity with their best players. Jones, Alyssa Thomas, Jasmine Thomas and Courtney Williams have been playing together for years. Sun coach Curt Miller believes this is the key to their league-best record.
“Theres a chemistry, a synergy with them. This year we’ve won some games ugly which is a good sign. Then some nights when you make shots it feels a lot better. I’m proud of them but again it goes all the way up the chain to the front office allowing us to build with this core group.”
When you look around the league right now Connecticut seems different. They seem to be in mid-season form while everyone else is sorta still figuring it out. Many of the Lynx championships over the years have been predicated on this same idea. Don’t be surprised if the Sun win a title this fall due to continuity.
Karima Christmas-Kelly played her highest minute total of the season and looked good. She didn’t score but got up four solid three point attempts, crashed the glass, had a steal and was impacting the game in her nearly 17 minutes of action.
A rare double technical was called on both coaches at the end of the second quarter. The exchange seemed to involve Reeve, Miller and Christmas-Kelly. The officials settled things with the double tech.
Lakeville Minnesota’s own Rachel Banham comes off the bench for the Sun. Kent Youngblood says that Banham had 62 ticket requests to fill for this game.
Damiris Dantas went down with a right ankle sprain. She was evaluated, re-taped and later reentered the game. Hopefully it is not a lingering issue.
The Lynx only turned the ball over nine times. That’s their lowest total of the year. Five of their mistakes did happen in the fourth quarter. Turnovers are bad.
Liz Cambage makes her Target Center Aces debut on Sunday when Las Vegas comes to town. Bill Laimbeer is still figuring out how the pieces fit together, but they are some very talented pieces. Fowles vs Cambage should be epic. Tip off is at 6pm.
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