Proving yet again that they can win under just about any circumstances, the Lynx defeated the Mercury in a game that began Friday night and ended early Saturday morning. Tip off was delayed because of overtime in the Dream/Sparks game that preceded Lynx/Mercury on IMG Academy’s court 1. The end of the game was delayed by Minnesota and Phoenix’s inability to defend without fouling for most of the second half.
About an hour before the game Phoenix announced that Brittney Griner would miss the game for personal reasons. This meant that both teams would be without their all-world centers. Sylvia Fowles and Griner are enormous difference makers on the defensive end of the floor. Their absences were felt especially in the first half. The Mercury racked up paint points aplenty and torched the Lynx transition defense. Meanwhile Minnesota stayed in the game by knocking down threes and getting to the free throw line. It was all-offense in the first half which was capped off a critical 11-2 Lynx run to give them a nine point cushion at the break.
The third quarter saw Minnesota keeping the Mercury at bay with a double digit lead. They Lynx were in control as their defensive intensity went up a notch. Phoenix as per usual focused too much of their attention on the officials. Diana Taurasi is one of the most vocal players in league history and plays with her heart on her sleeve for better or for worse. The final frame of this game was choppy and strange. Both teams could not stop fouling each other. Minnesota committed seven fouls in the first five minutes. This changed the game and Phoenix crept back led by Skylar Diggins-Smith. She made a number of big shots that cut the Lynx lead down to four. Minnesota finally got their act together and buckled down for a few clean stops. Key plays were `made by Crystal Dangerfield, Bridget Carleton and Collier in the final few minutes. There’s nothing like some early morning crunch time heroics from the team’s young core.
Four players turned in huge performances. Damiris Dantas, Collier, Dangerfield and Carleton each were great in different ways. Dantas was solid from beginning to end with 19 points, six rebounds, three assists and. Collier continues to improve as the season goes along. She’s succeeded at expanding her shot chart and creating a more diverse offensive mix. She turned in the insane stat line of 20 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks. Dangerfield didn’t have her best all-around game (0 assists, 3 turnovers), but she was the backcourt scoring punch the team needed her to be scoring 19 points. She was aggressive hunting her shot in pick and roll. Dangerfield is developing a reputation as someone who can rise up off the bounce for the jumper, or sneak into the lane for the layup. Carleton is the steady hand that Cheryl Reeve can’t take off the court. Right now she’s a starting level 3 and D wing who can also be trusted with the ball in her hands. The Canadian can do a little bit of everything.
This is another huge win for the Lynx. Even without Fowles they have a special mix of tenacity and chemistry that can be found in many of their wins. In the first half of the season they’ve been the league’s most surprising success story.
Bria Hartley was Phoenix’s best player. She had 24 points on 8-16 shooting. Hartley also had five assists, four rebounds and a steal. No Lynx guard could stay in front of her. The Mercury has such a talented roster. It seems like they should be better than 6-7.
Lexie Brown is shooting 1-9 from the field over the last two games (38 minutes). That right there is called a slump. Keep shooting Lexie.
Odyssey Sims saw 10 minutes of action with mixed results. She still seems a step slow as she works her way back into professional basketball. Sims did impress with her knack for getting to the free throw line. Some things never go away.
Two Lynx players share a birthday! Erica McCall and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan were both born on August 21st. Bubble Birthday Buddies!
Minnesota faces off against the 2-11 Atlanta Dream on Sunday afternoon. Tip off is set for 3pm CT. That’s only 40 hours between games. Rest up!
Watch: Twitter, Fox Sports North Plus, Fox Sports Southeast