Approximately 30 minutes before tip-off Lynx second year forward Bridget Carleton was informed that she would be getting her first career WNBA start. Sylvia Fowles was a late scratch with a minor calf injury. With Damiris Dantas and Napheesa Collier sliding up a spot, Carleton would get the nod at the small forward position.
Carleton seized the moment in a major way. Not only did she contribute to her team’s blowout win over New York, she was consistently the best player on the floor. In a career high 33 minutes she scored a career high 25 points. The shot was falling from all over the court as she shot 11-16 overall including a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. She also added seven rebounds and three assists. Her methodical shot creation and heads-up ability to be effective with or without the ball is impressive. She’s also a reliable, versatile defender.
.@minnesotalynx’s @bridgecarleton started her 1st career game tonight, scoring 25 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. She’s just the 3rd player in the past 20 years to score 25+ and have 5+ REB in her 1st start, joining @Candace_Parker in 2008 and @PHEEsespieces in 2019 @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/gBte6zO2T6— WNBA (@WNBA) August 6, 2020
The Ontario-born Carleton played four years at Iowa State before being drafted last year by the Connecticut Sun. She joined the Lynx late last season after being claimed off waivers. This summer she’s just one of many young Minnesota players looking to prove themselves at the WNBA level.
Speaking of which! Lexie Brown returned to game action after being concussed on Saturday and turned in her best performance of the young season. It’s the type of game that illustrated why the Lynx are so high on her. Brown notched a rare “4 x 4” game. With 15 points, seven steals, five rebounds and four assists, its only the 12th occurrence in WNBA history! Furthermore, her seven steals ties a Lynx single-game record.
The Lynx struggled early on without the backbone of their defense (Fowles) present. Liberty point guard Layshia Clarendon picked the Lynx screen and roll defense apart. It seemed like every New York player had multiple opportunities to waltz to the rim for an easy basket. Minnesota gave up 18 paint points in the first quarter alone. An ugly number for a team who typically hangs their hat on sterling interior defense. The Lynx kept things close with the scoring prowess of Carleton and Brown.
The third quarter was a massacre. There’s no other way to put it. Minnesota came out of the locker room with their defensive issues ironed-out.
“The big adjustment was putting a little more heat on Clarendon and not letting her get to those places that she was really hurting us; right in the paint and picking us apart.” Cheryl Reeve said postgame. “I thought the players did a great job turning up a little more pressure (in the second half). We were flying around helping each other. Very very aggressive. We had 28 deflections on the game led by Lexie Brown with a franchise-high 11. We were just really active.”
The Lynx forced 19 Liberty turnovers in the game’s first 28 minutes including seven in the third quarter which powered Minnesota’s scoring avalanche. The game was effectively over halfway through the third as the Lynx crushed the Liberty 27-6 in the quarter. Transition play, ball movement and made three point baskets cracked this contest wide open.
There are no easy wins in the WNBA. Especially this season. Especially when your best player is not in the lineup. Despite the lopsided score this is one to be proud of. A confidence building game for many of the young Lynx.
2020 number one overall pick Sabrina Ionescu did not play in this game. She was diagnosed with a grade three ankle sprain and will miss most of the season.
Former Minnesota Lynx assistant coach Walt Hopkins is the new head coach of the New York Liberty. His hair is very curly!
The last time Fowles missed a game was July of 2015. Before Wednesday’s game she had the longest active streak in the league at 158 games. Hopefully she’ll start back at one on Friday.
14 turnovers for the Lynx ties their season low. It’s paramount that the team takes care of the ball. Wednesday was a step in the right direction.
The Lynx will face the Indiana Fever on Friday night. Fowles will be needed down low to deal with the young Indiana twin towers in Teaira McCowan and Lauren Cox. Tip off is set for 5pm CT.
Watch: Fox Sports North