August 3, 2019.
That was the last time the Indiana Fever defeated the Minnesota Lynx. Since then, Minnesota had won seven straight games in a row leading up to this Tuesday evening contest. Both sitting at 0-2, something had to budge. The extremely young and inexperienced Fever team was facing a veteran Lynx team with all the motivation to right their ship. Jessica Shepard mentioned in the postgame presser that she could see a look in Sylvia Fowles’ eyes prior to the tip. Fowles certainly got hers, going off for a season-high 26 points (12/17 FG), 14 rebounds, three assists, four steals, and two blocks.
Unfortunately, the rest of the team combined to make just 20 of 60 shots.
Such has been the story of the Lynx season. A lack of consistent production from the supporting cast, granted many of them are still not available. Napheesa Collier (Pregnancy), Kayla McBride (Overseas), and Damiris Dantas (Injury recovery) being the familiar names we’re used to seeing. Even some of the newer supporting cast was not available, with Natalie Achonwa (New hamstring injury) and Odyssey Sims (Undisclosed personal) out. Lack of chemistry and executing the play calls has been commonplace for the ragtag Lynx cast to start this disappointing season. Coach Cheryl Reeve is understandably heated when asked about player availability and lack of consistency.
Coach Reeve on uneven performance: "We do good things, then we give it back. We don't have the ability right now to stunt the run and grab it back. The number of times we have a play call written up and it's executed wrong. All it takes is 1 player."— Leo S (@Y0Leo) May 11, 2022
"Indiana isn't a bad team."
As for the game, we got quite the seesaw affair. Minnesota missed their first seven shot attempts until Shepard put back her own miss at the 5:52 mark. This was part of a 17-4 Lynx run that was spurred by 10 first quarter turnovers by the Fever, giving Minnesota a 21-12 edge. It was short lived though, as Kelsey Mitchell followed up a 0 points first period with a 13-point explosion in the second quarter alone. Mitchell’s efforts punctuated a 36-18 quarter in which the Fever retook a seven point lead heading into the break.
The ferris wheel of momentum cycled back in Minnesota’s favor. Specifically, Rachel Banham got loose for three triples to lead an 11-0 run. RayBan had entered the game shooting 11.1% from the field, but finished with all four of Minnesota’s only makes from deep, chipping in a total of 14 points, four dimes, and zero turnovers. The visiting Lynx also got support throughout the game from Jessica Shepard, who has been one of the only bright spots of the season thus far. She continued her exemplary play, contributing on both ends of the court and finishing just one assist shy of a triple-double.
Coach Reeve on Shepard's performance: "Jess has been a bright spot and gaining in confidence. We wanted to make sure we capitalized on the momentum she gained overseas. Being a starter has hopefully helped with that."— Leo S (@Y0Leo) May 11, 2022
That said, there were not many other positives for Minnesota. Newly signed Angel McCoughtry only played about three minutes in the second half, though Coach Reeve did not indicate post game that it was a health issue. Aerial Powers got an early yank due to inefficient shooting (1 of 10). Yvonne Turner coughed the ball up six times. The six aforementioned players were the only ones who played double digit minutes and you could see them painfully putter to the finish line. Banham’s fourth three pointer got Minnesota a 69-67 lead with 7:01 remaining, but it was pretty much all Indiana from there. The Lynx’s old friend, Crystal Dangerfield, did for her new team what she often did for her old one: Make clutch plays to help her team close the game out.
Crystal Dangerfield made big plays for the Indiana Fever in crunch time to get a win over the Minnesota Lynx — the team that waived her — including this assist.— Lila Bromberg (@lilabbromberg) May 11, 2022
The former UConn guard @crystald2_ had 10 points & 6 assists in 21 mins off the bench. pic.twitter.com/QnzbOPklb5
The drain of playing essentially the same line-up for the entire second half was palpable, as the Lynx just did not have enough juice to get stops or execute their offense. Turnovers and desperation three point shots highlighted an otherwise above average effort for Minnesota as they suffered their third straight loss.
They are the only team at 0-3.
Jessica Shepard on locker room feelings/emotions: "I think we know we need to be better and need to be better now. The coaches can't keep saying the same things... You can't just play stints hard, you have to play the full 40 minutes."— Leo S (@Y0Leo) May 11, 2022
- Jessica Shepard continues to impress with her do-it-all game. Her court vision and effort on the glass is really showing the world what Coach Reeve saw in her. Jess finished the game with 10 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, and one steal.
Jessica Shepard is on another level pic.twitter.com/sOhLe77Mhg— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) May 11, 2022
- Bridge Carleton, or “Carl” as Rachel Banham puts it, was also effective, finishing with eight points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal, and a team-high +8. It certainly felt like she was making all the right plays as she usually does. Now she just needs to get her perimeter shot to start falling.
- Rennia Davis saw her first WNBA minutes tonight, debuting just hours before she was re-signed by the Lynx. The 2021 draft pick played just three minutes tonight, but scored on her only field goal attempt. Hopefully we see more of Davis moving forward.
- Other than Kelsey Mitchell, the Fever rookies NaLyssa Smith (9/5/3), Destanni Henderson (8/0/5), and Queen Egbo (Eight stocks!) looked really comfortable out there. Smith and Egbo valiantly battled with Fowles all night, while Henderson was getting into the paint at will. Things are starting to look bright for Indiana!
Coach Reeve and the Lynx get three days off before welcoming the defending champion Chicago Sky (0-1) to Target Center on Saturday 5/14 @ 7pm CT. Things don’t get much easier from there so hopefully things start coming together soon.
Banham on future confidence: "I definitely have confidence in this team... We work extremely hard... At the end of the day we have to play defense... We have a really special team and people we really trust."— Leo S (@Y0Leo) May 11, 2022
"We just need Minnesota to stick with us. Our fans to stick with us."