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Mercury 83, Lynx 79: Mercury Pay the Phee

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Minnesota self-checks out early, as late rally is not enough.

Prior to Minnesota’s last clash with Phoenix nine days ago, they were amidst a tasty Twitter beef. Spoiler alert: The Lynx walked away with the knockout victory both on social media and on the court, with a 90-80 victory (the Phoenix Mercury social media team could not be reached for comment after the game).

The Mercury had limped into that previous match on a 2-game losing streak, but seemed to have righted the ship since and headed into this rematch on a two game winning streak. Still, the high price that Diana Taurasi, who was nearly ejected in the last game against Minnesota, would have to pay to defeat the Lynx for the first time since 2018 would include having to deal with Napheesa Collier, who set a career-high in dimes (6) during their previous meeting.

The Phoenix Mercury would, in fact, pay the “Phee.”

Coming off a convincing win over the Mystics two days ago which featured some blistering shooting from Taurasi and Diggins-Smith (Combined 8/13 from perimeter), the Mercury would waste no time settling back into their same groove. “Logo Taurasi” would hit back-to-back treys to open the game and the rest of her team quickly followed suit, as they would sink four three-pointers in just the first four minutes of the game (not great, Bob).

I know some say there isn’t such a thing as “home court” in the Wubble, but the Lynx sure showed some hometown hospitality in this opening quarter by keeping it consistent and giving the Mercury countless wide open looks from mid-range, the paint, and sending them to the line. The Lynx would set a new season-high in points allowed in the 1st quarter - 33 - and quickly found themselves down 15 after the first quarter.

This trend continued for the duration of the first half, constantly fumbling the ball to Phoenix with a number of lazy live-ball turnovers (at one point, I had a PTSD flashback of watching Minnesota’s other basketball team play defense). The Timberwolves Lynx’s offense was equally disastrous as their defense which is less surprising, but still seemed a bit out-of-character for a Coach Reeve-led squad. Often times players would be throwing up their hands up in frustration of a blown rotation or poorly executed play.

Minnesota would crawl to the half somehow just down fifteen, although it surely felt more like fif-ty. Taurasi was the lone player from both squads to be in double figures, with an impressive seventeen point half. The starting backcourt, including budding floor general and personal favorite Crystal Dangerfield, were only given eight minutes of floor time as they were rather ineffective.

It appeared that the second half would just be a continuation of this bad dream for the Lynx, with the Mercury opening up with yet another open 3-ball to get things started. However, the team would bite down on their mouthpiece and begin gutting out a few defensive stops at a time, as we’ve become so accustomed to seeing them do. Unfortunately, their offense was still MIA resulting in a 14-point deficit heading into the final frame.

Insert One Crystal Dangerfield.

Finally seeming to have swum out of the sunken place, Dangerfield scored five straight points to open the 4th quarter. This would be just a third of her points in the period (15), as she would slice up the Phoenix defense with a tool belt full of weapons that even Batman would be impressed by.

After spending the night being torched by the phoenix that is Diana Taurasi, a critical sequence occurred early in the 4th where Collier would block a Taurasi 3-point attempt, which led to Dantas 3-point play which finally cut the lead down to single digits.

Just when it appeared that Taurasi had cooled off for the night (three points on 1/8 shooting in the 4th), Diggins-Smith was the steady hand that kept the Mercury ahead for the remainder of the game. Coming off of a red-hot performance in her last game, she continued to hit dagger after dagger to respond to each Minnesota bucket, finishing with 25 points (including 13 in the final period). The Lynx late game drama culminated in a KiKi Herbert Harrigan 3-pointer that whittled the Mercury lead to just two points with 14.5 ticks remaining, but Diggins-Smith would sink all four of her final free throws to ice the game.

Although it looked like the Lynx played the worst basketball of the season to start this game, they still battled back from a 22-point deficit in the 2nd quarter and had a chance to steal a game with a frenzied rally. We can remain confident that Coach Reeve has the credit necessary to get our team to buy-in for a championship run.

Nightly notables:

• The Mercury were missing their budding star guard Bria Hartley, who went down with a scary looking non-contact knee injury in their last game. It was announced about an hour before tip-off that Hartley would in fact miss the rest of the season - horrible news and definitely a gut punch for the Mercury’s title hopes (here’s to wishing her a speedy recovery). Phoenix is now ravaged by injuries, as they are also missing Griner (personal), Nia Coffey (hand), and Jessica Breland (medical exemption). Phoenix played with all eight active bodies they had, while Minnesota trotted out eleven different players in the losing effort.

• Though Phoenix’s defensive rating had dropped slightly from 102.9 to 103.8 since Brittney Griner left the Wubble, their blocks per game have surprisingly increased from 5.0 to 6.7, mostly thanks to the effort of Brianna Turner, who has been packing shots at an impressive 3.75 rate per game. She once again dominated the paint today with a 10/15/2 line coupled with two steals and four blocks. Wow.

Napheesa Collier, who has been playing at an MVP level lately, set a career high in assists (6) when she last faced the Mercury, but struggled today. Although she had her typical all-around line of 13/6/5 with three steals and two blocks, she found herself on the bench with 4:33 left in the 4th and never saw the court again. Coach Reeve mentioned post game that she wanted to give the unit that nearly engineered the comeback a chance to complete the comeback.

• The Minnesota Lynx donned their beautiful black and pink jerseys today in honor of Breast Health Awareness Night. Do something good today and donate to the National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc.

Next up: The Lynx are right in the middle of a tough 5-games in 8-day stretch, where the Los Angeles Sparks await them on Monday (8/31) with a late tip at 9pm CT (you can watch on CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports North Plus, Spectrum SportsNet). The Lynx are now 2.5 games back from the Sparks, who they have been racing with for one of the all-important top two seeds.

(As you may remember, this match was previously postponed from last Wednesday when the WNBA decided to place all of their games on hold for two days in protest of racial injustices and to shed additional light on the lethal shooting of Jacob Blake at the hands of Kenosha PD that left him paralyzed from the waist down. If you would like to donate to his family, here is a GoFundMe that his mother created to support him and his family during their recovery process).