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Lynx 90, Fever 80: Lightning and Thunder

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The Minnesota Lynx hold off a 2nd half scare by the Indiana Fever to inch closer to a playoff bye(s).

Indiana Fever v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Story

With important playoff implications in play, the Minnesota Lynx came out with a defensive intensity that demonstrated they knew what was on the table. Meanwhile the Indiana Fever, after losing by 17 against the Lynx just 2 days ago, came into the game as the lone team at the bottom of the standings. There were quite a few head scratching moments in the opening quarter by the Fever, as they botched multiple sidelines out of bounds possessions and gave up 5 turnovers in that period alone. As for the Lynx, Aerial Powers continued her offensive onslaught by pouring in game-high 8 points in a variety of ways in the first quarter alone.

At one point in the 2nd period, the Fever would pull as close as 7. However, AP would sub right back in and immediately add 5 more to her point total to rebuild a double digit lead which the Lynx would carry into the break. Powers came into the night on a 3 game 20-point scoring streak and finished tonight with 17 on 6 of 9 shooting from the field, although her electric energy was felt early and often as we have become accustomed to seeing.

Powers, as usual, was lightning in a bottle.

Indiana Fever v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Though the lead felt more like 20 after one half of play, the difficult shot-making of Kelsey Mitchell helped keep Indiana in it. This trend continued into the second half, as the Fever chucked in difficult shot after difficult shot. Perhaps the most eye-opening stat for them tonight was their 8 for 17 (.471) shooting from deep. Coming into the game, they were league-worst in makes (4.7) and percentage (.277) from beyond the arc. Mitchell nearly single-handedly willed the Fever ahead by 2 points in the 4th quarter with her game-high 25 points on 10 of 19 shooting (5/7 from 3).

When the Lynx offense looked dead in the water and their turnover problem was rearing its ugly head again, the other marquee free agent signing answered the call. Down 1 and out of a timeout, Kayla McBride would confidently take and make a huge 3 to retake a 2 point lead with less than 5 minutes remaining. In the ensuing minutes, she would manage a block and a charge drawn on Teaira McCowan on separate possessions, then lock up Tiffany Michell to force a big time shot clock violation, showing her value on both ends.

If AP was the lightning that Indiana saw, then KMac was the thunder they heard.

Indiana Fever v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

The remaining starters would all have a few of their own key contributions to put things away at the end of the game as well. Most notably, a 4-point spurt by Crystal Dangerfield that pushed the Lynx up 8 proved to be the different, ending the final mathematical odds of Indiana’s postseason chances. Her performance earned the praise of all her teammates and perhaps most importantly, coach Cheryl Reeve:

“We saw the Rookie of the Year Crystal today.”

Game Highlights

Game Notes

  • As the lone captain of the Crystal Dangerfield Hype Train™, I was extremely pleased with her performance tonight. She scored 9 of her 11 points in the final period, but it wasn’t until she was popped in the face by Kelsey Mitchell on an uncalled offensive foul that truly seemed to wake her up. Also earlier in the 3rd quarter, she came up lame after an awkward landing and immediately called to be subbed out of the game. That didn’t last long though, as she was inserted right back in a few minutes later. I asked her about this in the postgame presser:
  • The Lynx were wearing Sylvia Fowles for DPOY shirts during shootaround. She played just 2 minutes in the 4th quarter on Friday, but ended up having to play all 10 minutes tonight. The 35, soon to be 36-year old, center jousted with the 6’7”, 240 pound Teaira McCowan all night. The result? A pedestrian 18 points (7/10 shooting), 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, and 3 blocks. It will be an absolute travesty if she doesn’t win DPOY. She also showed love to the Minnesota Timberwolves by donning a Josh Okogie home jersey in the postgame presser which should act as your daily reminder: Support women’s sports!
  • Napheesa Collier, as usual, was as solid as they come. She has been Captain Reliable all season and somehow remains off the radar by the national media. Phee’s presence tonight was felt at both ends of the court, as evidenced by her final stat line.
  • Natalie Achonwa had a productive stint in tonight’s game. There was a stretch where she swished 2 straight midrange jumpers as a pressure release in the 1st half. If she can continue that pattern, then it will be a huge boon for the Lynx who will be hard-pressed to find a replacement for Damiris Dantas and her perimeter presence in the frontcourt. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see more of her in the 2nd half as Coach Reeve opted to play the starters longer to dig themselves out of their late hole.
  • Minnesota blew out Indiana 21-4 in the free throw battle. Even without the 4 free intentional free throws given at the end of the game, that’s still a 17-4 advantage. As Syl mentioned in the postgame, the free throw battle is usually won with aggression in the paint. This was obvious during the start of the 4th quarter, as Minnesota drew 3 shooting fouls within the first minute or so to get a huge advantage. Advantage: Lynx.

Stats via Lynx PR

  • With her fourth offensive rebound of the night Fowles moved to third all-time on the WNBA offensive rebounds leaderboard, passing Yolanda Griffith (1,049).
  • With her fourth made field goal, Fowles passed Lisa Leslie (2,332) for ninth on the WNBA all-time field goals made leaderboard.
  • Kayla McBride finished the night with 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and one block, accounting for the fourth game this season she has registered a block.
  • All five of Minnesota’s starters tallied double figures tonight marking the second time this season they have done so. The first occurrence was on July 7th vs Dallas (Collier – 10, Dantas – 10, Fowles – 15, McBride -25, Clarendon – 10).
  • At the end of the third quarter, the Lynx trailed 63-61 before outscoring the Fever 29-17 in the fourth quarter for the victory. This season, Minnesota is now 8-9 when trailing or tied after three quarters. The eight wins are the second most comeback wins in league history when trailing or tied after the third quarter, behind Seattle’s 14 comeback wins in 2010.
  • With tonight’s win, the Lynx now have secured their eighth season in franchise history with at least 20+ wins. This ranks tied for third most 20+ win seasons behind Los Angeles (13) and Connecticut (9).
  • Tonight’s contest marks the 21st Target Center regular season finale for the Lynx. They are now 16-5 all-time in such games, winning their last 11.

What’s Next

The Lynx have a solid 3-4 days of rest before they travel to Indiana to conclude this 3-game series against the Fever on Friday, September 17 @ 6:00pm CT.

With a completely surprising, but huge, loss against the Sparks, the Storm have now fallen to 4th in the standings. This means Minnesota are sitting alone at #3 and have some breathing room to earn a 1st round playoff bye. Mathematically, they still have a chance to earn the #2 seed and get a double bye, although it completely depends on how the Las Vegas Aces fare in their final games against Dallas, Chicago, and Phoenix.