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Lynx 91, Wings 84: Going Young, Going Small

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At the halfway point the Lynx are an impressive 8-3.

Dallas Wings v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

For two and a half quarters the Minnesota Lynx were a haphazard team on both ends of the basketball court. The upstart Dallas Wings ran circles around the stagnant Lynx defense and used offensive rebounds and penetration to hit wide open made threes. Dallas continually turned the Lynx over and scored easily in transition as well. With the WNBA’s leading scorer Arike Ogunbowale struggling to put the ball in the basket in the first half, Marina Mabrey and Allisha Gray picked up the slack combining for six threes for the Wings. Halfway through the third quarter Gray hit a three to push Dallas’ lead to 15 points. Things looked bleak for Minnesota.

And then the rookies took over.

First year point guard Crystal Dangerfield had another fantastic night leading her team with 21 points and six assists. She also splashed five threes and was the motor that powers the Lynx offensive engine. Minnesota is simply better when she’s on the floor. Dangerfield hit two huge threes early in the fourth quarter to help the Lynx take a lead that they would never again relinquish.

Minnesota outscored Dallas 45-23 over the game’s final 15 minutes. Sixth overall pick Mikiah Herbert Harrigan played nearly that entire stretch and was a big reason why the team was so successful. She’s had an up and down season thus far with a few DNP-CD’s and plenty of short stints of live action, but Wednesday’s game was her best of the season. She was an absurd, game-high +27 in 20 minutes of play. Herbert Harrigan was connecting from three and attacking closeouts to get to the rim. Her effort and versatility of the defensive end may be even more impressive. Cheryl Reeve’s choice to play “Kiki” and Napheesa Collier together in the front court was one of the factors that swung this game.

“I thought our (centers) were struggling with pick and roll,” Reeve said after the game.” Then we just got to this place where we felt like ‘you know what maybe small is the answer, just switch all the ball screens’ and I think our team has been pretty good at switching…I thought overall the small lineup got some confidence on offense because we got the floor spread pretty well and (Collier) was able to roam the paint.”

The length, mobility and “switchy-ness” of Herbert Harrigan and Collier could be an integral element of Lynx defenses for many years to come.

The Lynx also won this game because of a truly exceptional night shooting the ball from behind the arc. Their 14 threes marked the third best deep shooting night in franchise history. Maybe more impressive yet was the 60% three point percentage. Everything was going in. A game like this illustrates the ceiling of their offense when their all-world center returns: credible long range shooters and Fowles’ low post dominance.

Despite their best player only playing in six games, the Lynx are tied for second place in the league standings halfway through the season. Four of their eight wins have been in come-from-behind fashion, overcoming a double-digit deficit in each occasion. All of this is not coming at the expense of development as each of Minnesota’s young players have taken meaningful steps forward this year. That has to bring a smile to even the most critical Lynx observer.

“I’m ecstatic,” Reeve said postgame. “I can’t even express how happy I am.”

Notes

Collier played her standard brand of efficient basketball on Wednesday. She scored 18 points on 10 shots and added six rebounds. Also she was a perfect 3-3 from the three point line.

Bridget Carleton-mania has died down but she continues to be a very solid, reliable player for Minnesota. She rarely makes mistakes, always takes good shots and has been spending a lot of time guarding the opponents best perimeter threat on a nightly basis.

Lexie Brown hit the first shot of the game and then did not make another shot the rest of the game (1-3 FG). That’s very strange for someone who played 25 minutes.

Many players did not play in this game. Rachel Banham and Odyssey Sims joined Fowles on the injury list for Minnesota. Meanwhile Dallas was without Satou Sabally, Astou Ndour, Moriah Jefferson and Megan Gustafson.

Up Next

The Phoenix Mercury await Minnesota on Friday night. It will be odd to see the Lynx face Brittney Griner without Sylvia Fowles. Tip off is set for 9pm CT.

Watch: CBS Sports, Fox Sports North Plus