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Lynx 77, Sun 69: Rookie Rising, Sun Setting

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One down, 21 to go. 

Connecticut Sun v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Blame it on the 11 AM CT tip off, but the Minnesota Lynx opened their 2020 season as if they had just rolled out of bed.

Lazy passes led to Connecticut fast breaks and miscommunication in transition led to easy Connecticut buckets. The hallmarks of last season’s problematic offense were present: turnovers, poor spacing and a lack of long range shooting.

By the time the second half tipped-off the Lynx were fully awake. After ten giveaways in the first half, the team only committed four turnovers in the second. Sylvia Fowles (17 pts, 18 rbs) was able to establish a presence down low and the team’s defense went up a level. It can’t be overstated how important making three point shots is for the Lynx. Even just a few! Shooting 4/17 from long range isn’t good enough in attempts or makes, but all four of those 3FGs came in the second half and were a huge boost to the spacing and momentum for Minnesota.

The biggest story of this game was the WNBA debut of Crystal Dangerfield. The UConn guard was projected to be picked in the first round but slipped to the Lynx who selected her with the 16th overall pick. With three more established guards in front of her in the rotation, it was unclear how Dangerfield would see the floor much this season, let alone in game one. She provided energy, speed and an ability to get into the lane in pick and roll action. She was a game high plus-17 and scored ten points. Most notably Dangerfield played 20 minutes off the bench including the game’s final 14 minutes. She couldn’t be taken off the floor!

Fowles was impressed with the rookie’s first WNBA performance.

“Crystal was everything for what we needed. We started off very slow and at halftime we had a good conversation with her and let her know that our guards set our tone. If they move fast, we move fast. She came out and did exactly that. She got us into plays, she made shots, she got on board and got the ball to the right people. She had a big impact on our win today.”

Speaking of rookie debuts, last season Napheesa Collier put the WNBA on notice as she scored 27 points on opening night. This year was a very different type of game, especially early-on and Collier found her self in foul trouble and totally out of sorts.

“She was awful for three quarters. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said after the game. “We know that Napheesa Collier is never going to quit. She’s going to leave it all out there and whatever happens, happens. She made her own breaks. She started cashing in on some stuff and obviously she was disappointed with the first part of the game. She was a big reason why we won the game. Thats Napheesa Collier.”

Last year’s rookie of the year came through big in the fourth quarter scoring nine of her 11 points, while also adding four rebounds, four assists and a made three pointer. Defensively she was solid all night. Even when the game doesn’t go her way Collier generally finds a way to be effective.

It was a nice confidence building win for Minnesota. They didn’t look great for a large portion of this game but pulled out the victory anyway. In a condensed season every game matters, even the ones that start in the morning.

Notes

While the Lynx 16th overall pick (Dangerfield) thrived in crunch time of her first WNBA game, the Lynx 6th overall pick (Mikiah Herbert Harrigan) received a DNP from coach Reeve. When asked about the decision after the game Reeve answered: “I just don’t think (Herbert Harrigan) was ready from what we saw in practice to play in this game today.”

Sun forward Alyssa Thomas had a monster first half (16 pts, 6 rbs, 2 ast, and 2 stl) and was conversely unremarkable in the second half. She even missed two wide open layups.

Shenise Johnson and Karima Christmas Kelly both looked good in limited minutes as both return to professional basketball after extended injury absences. Johnson’s shot creation and passing will be important this season.

The ESPN broadcast broke some news that Lynx All Star guard Odyssey Sims would be joining the team in Florida sooner than later. Reeve even used the word “imminent” to describe the situation after the game. Once she arrives at IMG Academy she would have to undergo a week of quarantine before she can play. This is a very interesting development that could have large implications for Minnesota’s season.

Next Up

Minnesota is back at it on Tuesday night when they face off against Breanna Stewart and the Seattle Storm. Tip off is set for 9pm CT.

Watch: CBS Sports, FSN, JOETV