With the WNBA playoffs only two weeks away Wednesday’s showdown between two of the top teams in the league looked like it could be a heavyweight match. In reality the contest was more of an unfair fight as the Aces crushed the Lynx by 21 points, handing them their largest defeat of the season.
After the opening stanza the Lynx appeared to be ready to run with the uptempo Aces. Minnesota made 12 of their first 19 shots, Collier notched nine points and the game was tied at 27 at the end of the first quarter.
“We were fortunate in the first quarter that we were able to score points. Otherwise it would have been out of hand in the first quarter”, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said post game. “We didn’t play a lick of defense from the start to the finish.”
Las Vegas broke the game open in the second quarter with a 28-14 scoring advantage. The Aces were able to score at will for the entire evening while the Lynx were not. For a stretch bridging the first and second quarters Las Vegas made 11 of 13 shots. As the Minnesota offense stumbled, and their shots clanged off the rim, the Aces used the opportunity to push the ball the other way. While Las Vegas was only credited with three fast break points, they found early offense and other advantages while the Lynx scrambled back.
The story of the game was third year guard Jackie Young. The 2019 number one overall pick set a new career high in scoring with 29 points. She racked up buckets in a number of ways - curling around screens for pull-up jumpers, catching and shooting when the ball was swung to her, and executing well-timed cuts when A’ja Wilson was doubled in the post. Young did all of her damage without the assistance of a single three pointer. She’s a crafty midrange operator with the ability to attack closeouts and find herself efficient shots.
Unfortunately for the Lynx Young was not the only Las Vegas backcourt player who was shooting the cover off the ball. Riquna Williams had 16, Kelsey Plum had 13 and Chelsea Gray chipped in eight points. All together the Vegas quartet combined to score 66 points.
“Their guards’ sense of urgency was far greater than ours. Our perimeter defense was pretty darn passive all night and they got where they wanted to go”, Reeve said after the game. “We did very little to provide much resistance. They did the hitting all night and we were passive and reactive. That’s not going to get it done against these guys…We weren’t very hard to play against, and that was awfully disappointing.”
The Aces seized control of the game and never gave it back. Minnesota can struggle mightily to score the ball when they don’t play “inside-out” and/or score off of their defense. Las Vegas did a nice job sealing off the paint and limiting Sylvia Fowles’ touches. She finished with just 10 points on nine shots. Meanwhile on the other end Wilson and Dearica Hamby scored efficiently from the restricted area. The Aces outscored the Lynx 52-30 in the paint.
Minnesota hangs their hat on their defense. It’s been their calling card for years and this summer has been no different. Giving up 101 points (albeit to the best offense in the league) is an alarming indictment for a team with championship aspirations. Minnesota is 13-3 since June 23rd, but all three of those losses were against Connecticut and Las Vegas, the two teams who seem to be separating themselves from the rest of the league. A playoff berth is clinched, a top-four seed is likely, but how this team finishes beyond that is anyones guess.
Layshia Clarendon was upgraded to “doubtful” before ultimately being ruled out for their fourth straight game. The Lynx desperately miss their offensive table-setter and best perimeter defender.
The Aces second best player Liz Cambage missed the contest due to being in the health and safety protocols. Scary to think they could be even better come playoff time.
Aerial Powers had another nice game off the bench scoring 20 points in 21 minutes. She’s a nice change of pace piece off the bench for Reeve. Also she has a knack for getting to the free throw line with regularity. Something that is missing from the rest of the team’s guards.
In one of the biggest Lynx scheduling quirks in years, Minnesota will face Indiana in three straight regular season games! They’ll play Friday and Sunday at Target Center before finishing the set at Indiana Farmers Coliseum on 9/17. Friday’s game tips off at 7pm and can be streamed on Twitter.com