Sunday’s matinee loss to the Dream was Minnesota’s first truly disappointing result of the season. It wasn’t simply that their opponent entered the game on a ten game losing streak and holding a record of 2-11. The fact that the Lynx lost by getting beat on the boards and by not playing as hard as Atlanta may haunt them for a few days. The pain of this defeat is exacerbated by how fantastic Minnesota looked in the first quarter which ended with the Lynx leading by ten points.
“They played harder than we did,” head coach Cheryl Reeve said after the game. “We got outplayed. It really started in the second quarter…I think we got outplayed for three of the four quarters. Obviously we got out to a good start. First quarter was decent. (Atlanta) played like a team that was hungry for a win.”
After one quarter it appeared that Atlanta would have to keep dreaming about that win. But things changed. Maybe the big lead lulled the Lynx to sleep. Minnesota was in front by as much as 14 in the second. But ultimately the Dream picked up their defensive intensity and outscored the Lynx 63-40 over the final three quarters. Atlanta held a 21-12 advantage on the glass in the second half. Reeve used that rebounding edge to emphasize how her team was getting outworked.
“Rebounding tells the story…it told the entire story of the second half. How much harder Atlanta played.”
The Dream backcourt of Courtney Williams, Betnijah Laney and Blake Dietrick scorched the Lynx defense. They combined for 43 of their team’s points and constantly blew by the Minnesota player attempting to guard them. Dietrick was red-hot from three hitting 3/4 from deep. Atlanta’s bigs provided second chance opportunities, and their guards knocked down the shots.
Minnesota held Atlanta to 30 first half points. Even without Fowles they have stretches where they are as good as anyone on the defensive end. The system is in place and generally their players have bought in and bring the necessary hustle and effort. Unfortunately Sunday also showed that Minnesota can have long stints featuring backcourt breakdowns and help defense mishaps. ESPN’s Michelle Vopel asked Reeve what they key to the Lynx success over the next few weeks. Minnesota’s head coach put her answer simply.
“We gotta defend. We’re not going to win unless we defend.”
Lexie Brown broke out of a two game shooting slump by hitting six of her ten shots including three of seven from downtown. She finished with 17 points.
Napheesa Collier had a solid game with 18 points, eight rebounds, three blocks, two steals and two assists. True to form her team’s performance, she did much of that work in the first half.
Reeve said after the game that her team had a season low in deflections. It’s just another indicator of a poor defensive outing.
Atlanta’s now-snapped ten game losing streak began when they lost rookie phenom Chennedy Carter to an ankle injury. She was available to play in this game but received a DNP-CD. If her early-season play was any indication, the Dream could be a fun team to watch in the next few weeks.
Sunday was the late Kobe Bryant’s birthday. He was an outspoken advocate for women’s sports and the WNBA. His jersey hung behind each bench and both of his numbers were printed on the court.
The Lynx will rematch with the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday night after a two day break. Tip off is set for 7pm
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