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Lynx 78, Sun 69: Somehow, Someway

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Minnesota defeats Connecticut for the second time this week.

Minnesota Lynx v Connecticut Sun Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been a frantic first week of WNBA basketball for the Minnesota Lynx. They played four games in seven days against three 2019 playoff teams. They’ve lost Karima Christmas-Kelly for the season to an achilles rupture, Lexie Brown for a few games to a concussion, and Shenise Johnson for an undetermined amount of time to a pulled hamstring. They’ve struggled mightily with turnovers and inefficient offense at times, but also have a consistently stout half court defense. As the dust settles on the first week of the season the Lynx have emerged from one of their toughest stretches with a 3-1 record.

Minnesota kicked off their season a week ago with a come from behind win against Connecticut. These two teams faced off in a rematch on Saturday afternoon with the Sun looking to exact revenge. Through the first few minutes of the game it looked like they would accomplish their tit-for-tat goal as Minnesota committed five turnovers in the game’s first five minutes. Sylvia Fowles had to head to the bench early after picking up two quick fouls. Adding injury to insulting play, starting guard Shenise Johnson came up lame after pulling her left hamstring.

DeWanna Bonner leads the league in scoring and filled it up with ease in this game. This was especially true in the first half where she scored 18 points on 4-8 from the field including 4-6 from three and 6-6 at the free throw line. At this point in the season she singlehandedly powers the entire Sun offense. Her ability to shoot it off the dribble from three as well as attack a screen makes her a matchup nightmare.

Down seven at the halftime everything seemed to be going awry. However, as we’ve seen multiple times over this first week, the Lynx are not a team you can count out of any game.

A critical moment presented itself in the first minute of the third quarter. Fowles committed her fourth foul of the game. Cheryl Reeve made the controversial decision to leave her team captain on the floor. It paid off as Fowles was able to not only have a huge impact on the rest of the game, but also played all but two and a half minutes of the second half.

Crystal Dangerfield was huge in Minnesota’s comeback against the Sun last week. She had another big game again on Saturday, especially in the second half as she scored a career high 17 points. Dangerfield came alive and hit four threes after halftime. They would be the only shots the team would make from long distance. The shooting percentage isn’t quite where you’d like it to be, but she’s finding and taking a lot of high quality attempts. It must be rewarding to see a couple go through the hoop.

“She’s a far better shooter than what she’s shooting.” Head coach Cheryl Reeve said postgame. “We just told her not to sweat (the misses), if it’s the right basketball play, and she’s open, she’s supposed to shoot it. By her not shooting it, it would hurt our team, just focus on making the next one, it doesn’t matter what happened in the first half and she took that to heart.”

As usual, the Lynx won this one with their defense which went up a notch in the third and fourth quarters. Suddenly Connecticut wasn’t getting wide open threes and endless trips to the free throw line. Instead Minnesota defended cleanly and made things difficult on the Sun who only managed 27 second half points.

Minnesota finally gets a break. They’ll be off for three whole days before their next game. Hopefully Johnson can return in a week or two. Hamstrings are tricky and can linger if not given the proper rest and recovery. The team needs quality guard play in the worst way. Odyssey Sims’ arrival to the Bradenton Bubble is imminent but her ability to play high level WNBA basketball could be many weeks away. Despite it all the Lynx are 3-1 and that in itself is cause for celebration.

Notes

Through four games Minnesota is 2nd league-wide in rebound percentage and first in offensive rebound percentage. They out-boarded the Sun in this game 40-27 and was a big reason why they were victorious.

Napheesa Collier stuffed the stat sheet and scored 17 points on only seven shots. She also had nine rebounds, four assists, four blocks and an eye-popping seven turnovers. She now leads the league in total offensive rebounds and total turnovers. One of those things is wonderful and the other is not so wonderful.

As the injury bug continues to bite the Lynx forward Bridget Carleton played a season-high 23 minutes. She won’t be lighting the world on fire, but her steady and reliable play is a huge boon for the Minnesota roster.

Sun All Star Alyssa Thomas had an extremely frustrating game. She played all but 30 seconds of the game but did not make a field goal. The last time that occurred to her was over two years ago.

Next Up

The Lynx will face former Lynx assistant coach Walt Hopkins and his New York Liberty on Wednesday. Number one overall pick Sabrina Ionescu will miss the game after badly spraining her ankle on Friday. Tip off is set for 7pm CT. You can watch the came on CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Go.