“I enjoy the challenge,” Kayla McBride said with a smile on her face, after leading her team to a win over the Dallas Wings in her career-best third straight game with at least 20 points or more, referring to her nightly task to check the other team’s best player while also carrying a heavy scoring load.
When you turn on a game it couldn’t be more evident that McBride, who is known as “McBuckets” to many around the WNBA, is not just a legitimate scoring threat every time she touches the ball, but also an excellent, disruptive competitor on the defensive end of the floor, too.
Over the past three games, McBride has scored 75 points on 27/39 FG (69.2%) and 11/18 3PT (61.1%), while holding her primary matchups (Diana Taurasi and Arike Ogunbowale, whom McBride called two of the greatest scorers in league history) to a combined 9/38 FG (23.7%) and 3/17 3PT (17.6%). Her two-way impact earned her Player of the Week honors from the Associated Press.
“She really is [impressive on defense],” Minnesota Lynx Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve said postgame about McBride. “It is really fun to coach a player who is so passionate and so locked in.”
That passion and intensity shined as bright as the lights at Target Center during the fourth quarter in the game’s signature moment. After a Bridget Carleton 3-pointer to give the Lynx a 70-67 lead with six minutes to play, McBride put the clamps on Ogunbowale to force a shot clock violation and then let out a roar that permanently ignited an impactful, raucous home crowd in Downtown Minneapolis.
“It’s just about being in the moment and bringing everybody back in the moment with you,” McBride said of the importance for players with her spirit to be vocal when trailing in big games. “I think there’s always times where shots don’t go in, [you commit] turnovers, blah blah blah. I’m always just trying to remember to bring everyone back to the moment... Just having them focus on things that they can control.”
In the subsequent minutes, McBride scored six of the team’s final 13 points to bring home a big win that created some breathing room between the Lynx and the Wings for the Western Conference’s No. 3 spot in the standings.
While she’s known as a shooter, McBride got it done from all over the floor last night en route to a game-high 25 points. Whether it was shooting from deep, knifing through the defense like a machete in the forest, or moving without the ball, McBuckets put her versatility on full display.
After getting out to a fast start, Minnesota’s turnover problem once again reared its head late in the first quarter. The Lynx failed to score over the final 2:22, foreshadowing a turnover-laden second frame that led to Dallas shooting 11/19 from the floor, 4/8 from deep, and holding a 46-38 lead at the break. The Wings closed the half on a 33-15 run over the final 12:22, largely because the Lynx struggled to get stops, especially in the paint.
HT: Wings 46, Lynx 38— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) July 8, 2021
Dallas closes on a 33-15 run over the final 12:22 of the half.
Sabally: 7 pts, 6 ast, 5 reb
Gray: 9 pts
Mabrey/Ogunbowale: 7 pts each
McBride: 12 pts, 3 ast
Fowles: 4 pts, 7 reb
Collier: 2 pts, 3 reb, 2 blk, 1 ast
• DAL: 39 (!)
• MIN: 28 pic.twitter.com/EmobhgU0By
In the third quarter, Minnesota firmly set the tone on the offensive end, playing through Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier, whom was held scoreless in the first half for the first time this season. The Lynx Olympians scored three of the team’s first four baskets in the third quarter, cutting the deficit from 11 to just seven, which woke a displeased crowd up from a quarter-long hibernation.
“We just slowed down a little bit. That was just that team [Dallas], that’s going to speed you up,” Fowles said when she was asked about the team’s adjustments after halftime. “They gonna make you turn the ball over. And so understanding that valuing the ball is important against a team like Dallas, we had to make sure to step it back but at the same time not turn it over.”
Minnesota had just two turnovers in the second half, and none in the final 12 minutes, compared to the 11 they committed in the first half.
“We just got the ball moving a little bit better. Then I also thought playing off of our defense was something that we targeted,” Reeve said.
McBride and newly re-signed Rachel Banham were primarily responsible for the defense turning into offense in a tide-turning third quarter for Minnesota. McBride’s defense on Ogunbowale forced the Wings into several tough shots and Banham did a great job coming away with loose balls and making the right plays in transition to turn turnovers into points and points into momentum the crowd kept rolling into the fourth quarter, which Minnesota entered with a five-point gap to overcome.
Carleton picked up where Banham left off after she checked out of the game. The Canadian Olympic Team selection had two clutch steals in key moments down the stretch.
The first resulted in a Carleton 3 that gave the Lynx a 70-67 lead they would not relinquish.
The second resulted in a breakaway layup that stretched the lead from three to five with 4:08 to play.
BRIDGET CARLETON, EVERYBODY pic.twitter.com/1uUtgOxYzs— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) July 8, 2021
The fan favorite nearly blew the roof off of a packed house at Target Center with those two buckets, which came after 1/5 start, but Reeve was not surprised.
“I think this has been brewing for Bridget. Bridget was doing what she had been doing this season,” Reeve said. “You’re open for a shot you knock down in your sleep, it doesn’t go in. You get a pull-up jumper; it’s the right shot, but it doesn’t go in. Bridget could’ve easily felt bad for herself. But she turned the tide when she really aggressive guarded the perimeter and got a couple of breakaways.”
It feels like a different role player has stepped up and made a major impact in each of Minnesota’s comeback wins this season. I asked Reeve about what that says about the mental toughness of her group, Carleton chief among them.
“She [Carleton] didn’t stop shooting. She didn’t think twice about it. I think it speaks a great deal of Bridget Carleton’s mental toughness. You have to have [mental toughness]. Every team has to have that.”
That mental toughness got Minnesota to the finish line tonight. Dallas kept it within one possession for three-and-a-half of the game’s final four minutes, but Minnesota remained calm on both ends. After a turnover fest in the first half, the Lynx ran decisive action on offense, while also finishing stops with clearing rebounds in the clutch. That’s a great combination that the Lynx have showed twice now in their last four games, first against Las Vegas and now against Dallas.
Overall, it was a complete team effort from the Lynx tonight. Six players scored in double-figures tonight and every player had at least one spurt in which they sparked a good string of sequences on either end of the floor.
For a team expected to get two more rotation players with playoff experience back from injury for the second half of the season in Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa, nights like tonight are pivotal in preparing the Lynx for the playoffs.
Minnesota will close out the first half of its season on the road, first in Las Vegas on Friday in a highly anticipated rematch of a Target Center thriller from a couple weeks ago, and then in Los Angeles on Sunday.
FINAL: Lynx 85, Wings 79— Jack Borman (@jrborman13) July 8, 2021
Gutsy second half from Minnesota.
McBride: 25 pts on 9/13 FG, 5 reb, 5 ast
Fowles: 15 pts, 11 reb
Collier: 10 pts, 4 reb, 4 blk, 40 MP
Dantas: 10 pts, 3 reb, 3 ast
Carleton: 10 pts, 2 reb
Sabally: 12 pts, 7 ast, 6 reb
Gray: 13 pts
Full stats ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/kb6chgr1sT
Game Notes, courtesy of Lynx Public Relations
- Kayla McBride became the third Lynx player in franchise history to register a stat line of 25+ points, 5+ rebounds, 5+ assists and zero turnovers, joining Maya Moore (twice) and Seimone Augustus.
- Bridget Carleton scored in double figures for the second time in her Lynx career.
- Sylvia Fowles extended her league record with her 174th career double-double, and her seventh on the season.
- With her sixth and final made field goal of the night, Fowles tied Lynx assistant coach Katie Smith for fourth on the franchise all-time leaderboard for field goals made at 1,127.
- Napheesa Collier tied a career high with four blocks.
- Layshia Clarendon recorded their 29th career game with at least 10 points and five assists, her fourth of the season.
- The Lynx are on a five-game winning streak for the 20th time in franchise history.
- Minnesota has now won the season series against Dallas, Phoenix and Atlanta.
- The Lynx are 37-2 all-time when they register 20+ fast break points.