It seemed like just yesterday that the Minnesota Lynx were making headlines as an 0-4 team riddled with serious injuries to key players. “And they’re supposed to be a championship caliber team???” they scoffed. Well, after obliterating the Phoenix Mercury in their own home on Saturday night, the Lynx have now gone 9-3 in their last 12 games.
The Lynx are currently sitting in 4th place in the standings. That’s right.
The main factors contributing to the Lynx 180° turnaround was on full display during the second game of a road-road series against the Mercury. First and foremost tonight: Kayla McBride. If you look up “buckets” in the dictionary, you’ll surely find a picture of KMac J’ing in the face of a hapless defender. McBuckets’ blistering performance tonight began with her going 7 for 7 to start the game, scoring in every which way. Contested three pointers with her patented quick release. Spinning and scooping in layups in traffic. It was all on display. Just 3 days after scoring 26 points on 9/13 shooting, Kayla finished this game on an eerily similar 24 points on 9/13 shooting including 4/6 from deep in just 27 minutes. She pretty much single-handedly built an 18-point 1st half lead and as a reward, never had to take her warmups off in the 4th quarter.
Great moment post game: Kayla McBride got emotional when opening up about her recent success on the court & how the Lynx have been a blessing for her.— Yo SYL!!!!!!!!! (@Y0Leo) July 4, 2021
Weds @ PHX: 26 pts, 9/13, 5 treys, 34 mins
Sat @ PHX: 24 pts, 9/13, 4 treys, 26 mins
(Q: @dblfluidity to @kaymac_2123) pic.twitter.com/h4muxr5aq9
With KMac taking care of things on the offensive end, we have to turn our attention to the frontrunner for the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year, Sylvia Fowles, on the other. After watching Brittney Griner jump shoot her way to 28 points on Wednesday, Big Syl locked Griner up to 6 points on 1/5 shooting. Syl’s 10 boards were coupled by a pair of steals and a trio of blocks which are impressive numbers, yet still doesn’t seem to accurately quantify how active she was all over the floor. Perhaps the most important number for Fowles tonight was just 24 minutes played, as she earned some well-deserved rest during her renaissance of a season.
how about a defensive highlight? pic.twitter.com/hXOYnJoEKU— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) July 4, 2021
Thirdly, the continued growth and excellence of Napheesa Collier remains one of the biggest boons for the Minnesota franchise. Despite recently being named an Olympian and All-Star, it still doesn’t quite sum up just how good Phee has been on the court. Diana Taurasi even cited Collier as one of the players she most looks forward to playing with in Tokyo. There’s not a mistake she doesn’t cover offensively or defensively yet seems to never ask for the ball or plays drawn up for her. Although Phee’s 19/6/6/1/1 line on 6/7 shooting is bananas, it has become the norm of what we expect from her.
Lastly and certainly not least is the
arrival signing re-signing emergence of Layshia Clarendon. On the macro level of the season, the addition of former all-star has literally been the necessary spark that started the current 9-3 run of games. It only took 1 game (and near game-winning half court buzzer beater) before Coach Reeve knew that Lay needed to start and play the majority of PG minutes for the Lynx. He dinked and dunked his way to 17 points while also contributing 7 rebounds and 4 assists, but most importantly controlled the pace of the game all night. We should count ourselves fortunate that GM Reeve was able to lock down Lay for the remainder of the season.
Overall, Reeve was effusive in her praise of Clarendon:— Dani Bar-Lavi (@dblfluidity) July 4, 2021
"I can't say enough about what Lay has meant to this team, and where we're positioned at this time. Since we got Lay, we're 9-3 I believe. They've made us one of the best teams over this 12 game stretch." #CantTameUs https://t.co/5fTqZHMUzd
The game was truly a one sided affair which was highlighted by a 37-point 2nd quarter (ties franchise record) for the Lynx. During that period, the trio of Diana Taurasi, Skyler Diggins-Smith, and Coach Sandy Brondello all earned technical fouls. At one point, the Minnesota lead would tower up to as much as 34 points early in the 4th quarter. To be honest, it was all academic halfway through the 3rd quarter though, as nearly all of the Phoenix starters were benched with about 3 minutes remaining. Perhaps it was best said by the Phoenix play-by-play announcer, Jeff Munn:
“We’re gettin’ to burn the film territory here.”
Oh, the film wasn’t the only thing that got burned tonight.
- It’s hard not to praise every single Lynx player today. Everyone who played was a minimum +10 and although I highlighted 4 players above already, I have to give a big shoutout to Jessica Shepard and Damiris Dantas. Jess looked great out there, showing off her instinctual passing touch and defensive tenacity to the tune of 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Meanwhile, DD continued to play an important role stretching the floor by nailing 2 triples while also chipping in 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists of her own.
Reeve on Jessica Shepard's 6 assists: "Vintage Jess. This is really what we want from Jess. She's an easy basket-getter for her teammates...I bet half of Phee's field goals came from Jess. That's Jess' value, that's why she's— Dani Bar-Lavi (@dblfluidity) July 4, 2021
a productive player." #CantTameUs
- Saturday’s 31-point victory is the second largest road win in Lynx franchise history. They accomplished this with a balanced attack that included a 41-14 advantage in points in the paint. This was representative of in the .551-.328 FG% difference.
- Syl had a sweet 360° pivot lay-in today which I’m pretty sure she practices. I highlighted it once last year and I’m so happy to see it resurface.
- With a certain Phoenix basketball team heading to the MNBA finals, the other Phoenix basketball team is now reeling in its tracks. The Mercury have now lost 6 of their last 8 (the 2 wins coming against the struggling Los Angeles Sparks) and find themselves barely hanging on to the 8th seed. Their reward? A gruesome 5-day span where they have to play the Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm (twice) before the Olympic break. Although there’s still half a season left to turn things around, it looks like the sun may be finally setting for the Diana Taurasi era of basketball in Phoenix.
- Credit where credit’s due: The Minnesota defense was all over the Mercury tonight, forcing them to 32.8% shooting as mentioned earlier. DT and BG combined to score just 17 points on 3/14 shooting tonight. Despite Mercury’s technical fouls due to their incessant pleas to the zebras, they still outshot the Lynx at the free throw line, 17-14.
The Minnesota Lynx head back home after a successful 2-game road trip in Phoenix. They get 3-day break before hosting the feisty Dallas Wings at 7:00pm CT which will be nationally televised on ESPN2. The Lynx are 1-1 against the Wings this season. I hope you’re able to tune in, but if not, hit me up in the DM’s for a link!