The Minnesota Lynx once again found themselves in a second-half hole against a stout defensive team tonight at Target Center, before clawing back in front with impressive defense and strong backcourt play.
The Atlanta Dream are one of the W’s most aggressive defensive teams and it showed in the first three quarters. The Dream forced 15 turnovers, and made things extremely tough for the Lynx’s primary ball-handlers; they held Crystal Dangerfield to three points and forced steady-handed point guard Layshia Clarendon into four turnovers.
The Dream's guards have been hounding Clarendon and Dangerfield in the second half, which has made it very difficult for the Lynx to get into the flow of their offense.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) June 5, 2021
Hayes and Sims go back-to-back with 3s and the Dream's lead is out to 8, 52-44, at the 7:15 mark.
The Atlanta ball pressure noticeably amped up when Minnesota’s second unit took the floor, and as a result, the Lynx reserves struggled to get anything going at the tail end of the first quarter. After the Lynx starters built an eight-point lead with effective high-low action and drive-and-kicks to wing shooters, the turnovers and defensive lapses from the second unit gave the Dream momentum heading into the second, which they capitalized on.
The Lynx trail 37-33 with 3:18 left in the first half, despite shooting 14/24 (58.3%) and assisting on 11 of their 14 made FGs.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) June 5, 2021
They've turned it over 12 times in 17 minutes.
MIN averages 14 turnovers per game for the season, while ATL forces 19 per game.
Atlanta got major bench production from 2021 Arizona superstar Aari McDonald and Crystal Bradford, who were a combined 8-of-14 from 3. McDonald also stood out as a point-of-attack defender, where she turned ball-handlers over and over again, closed passing lanes and forced several loose balls and turnovers.
I love Aari McDonald's game. She's as fearless as they come, gets into you on defense, and has all the confidence in the world to shoot it from all over the floor.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) June 5, 2021
She's made things very tough for Layshia Clarendon offensively.
The dynamic shooting duo seemed to drill clutch shots in both the second and third quarters that would either force mo-killer timeouts from Cheryl Reeve or quiet the Target Center crowd as the Lynx got it back within three or four points. The Dream lead was just one at the half, but Bradford, Tiffany Hayes and former Lynx All-Star point guard Odyssey Sims all had a very strong first few minutes of the third quarter to extend the lead out to nine.
Lynx get it back to four, but Bradford hits a ridiculous 3 to stretch it back to seven.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) June 5, 2021
Minnesota's starters (with Dangerfield for seven minutes) have played the entire third quarter, but can't get hold of the game
While the ball-handlers struggled early on, Napheesa Collier stepped up tonight in a huge way and remained a constant all night long. Collier attacked the defense from all over the floor right from the jump. She forced Tianna Hawkins into foul trouble in the first couple minutes of the games, and carried that attacking mindset with her for the rest of the game.
By my count, Phee has drawn five fouls thus far.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) June 5, 2021
It's impressive how many different ways she's put pressure on the defense tonight:
• in post-ups
• on back-cuts
• on UCLA cuts
• as a ball-handler above the break
• as a 3-point shooter in the wings/corners
The Lynx superstar put pressure on the defense with back cuts, UCLA cuts, post-ups, wing treys, and drives from above the break that put Dream defenders in positions where they had no choice but to foul her. Collier got to the line 13 times, making 10 of free throws, to go along with her very efficient 7-of-12 shooting night. Collier played the entire second half, helping prevent dribble penetration and keep the Dream off the glass in key moments.
In addition to Collier stepping up, Kayla McBride had by far her best shooting night of the season. Her pure 3-point stroke got the Lynx out in front in the first quarter and also kept them in the game when the third quarter was, as Reeve described it postgame, teetering on the edge of slipping away. McBride also made several cuts that either collapsed the defense so Collier, Clarendon and Dangerfield could attack, or netted her easy layups at the rim. What Reeve was most impressed with about her game, however, was her defense on Dream superstar Courtney Williams. Williams, who entered the league sixth in scoring at 19.5 points per game, was held to just 15 points on 6/18 from the floor. Reeve credited McBride’s tough, long defense that made Williams’ life difficult on the catch and in one-on-one situations.
The backside rotations after cutting off baseline drivers, and post defense has been excellent.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) June 5, 2021
Give a ton of credit to Achonwa, Collier and Carleton for their work in the paint. https://t.co/OQ4seTEKj9
On the backs of Collier, McBride and Clarendon, the Lynx clawed to keep things within single digits early in the fourth quarter, which set up Dangerfield, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, to get advantageous matchups that she took full advantage of in the fourth quarter. After scoring three points in the first three quarters, Dangerfield said postgame that her mentality was to use the aggression of the Dream defense to her advantage. She used ball fakes and a vicious change of pace to get into the second and third levels of the defense, where she scored in the mid-range and at the rim. Dangerfield’s 10 fourth-quarter points propelled the Lynx offense, while the Collier, McBride and Clarendon held it down on the defensive end of the floor and Sylvia Fowles, who was neutralized after the first quarter, made a huge impact clearing the glass and impacting shots at the rim.
Thanks to clutch fourth quarter from all three, the Lynx guards’ ended up making a huge impact on the final score with how they took control of the game on both ends.
The guard trio of Dangerfield, Clarendon and McBride has been incredible tonight.— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) June 5, 2021
They've combined for 44 of Minnesota's 83 points and have 9 of the team's 20 assists.
It all put the Lynx in a position to win the game in the final moments, following a nice counter-punch from the Dream to tie things up.
Our guy Leo broke down the game-winning play beautifully.
Yo... Atlanta rly blew their coverage on this all night.— YoLeo (@Y0Leo) June 5, 2021
The GW drive by Phee was, you guessed it, a SLOB where the inbounder wasn't correctly accounted for.@LynxCoachReeve & Co. saw this weakness, put it in their back pocket, then busted out the receipt for a W #CantTameUs https://t.co/c8HZaLcpfG pic.twitter.com/OUVFobdfHj
Collier’s return to the lineup has infused the Lynx offense with more cutting not only from herself, but from McBride, Clarendon, and Fowles, too.
Here’s what the final play looked like from inside Target Center.
Like she has done all night, Phee draws a huge foul to potentially seal the win pic.twitter.com/c8hxqXVv77— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) June 5, 2021
With another big comeback win tonight, the Lynx move to 2-4 and will again take on the Dream here at Target Center on Sunday at 6 PM Central Time.