The Minnesota Lynx looked to be getting back on track with a balanced effort that earned them the lead for most of the first 20 minutes, before Marina Mabrey and Kayla Thornton disrupted those plans by leading a third quarter explosion to power the Dallas Wings to a SCORE-SCORE win.
Dallas won the third quarter 36-19 behind a combined for 18 points from Mabrey and Thornton. The wing pairing drained a trio of 3-pointers that broke the game open, culminating with a back-breaking and-1 from the fiery Notre Dame alumna, who let the Lynx know about it.
Let-down defensive quarters have been a central theme of the 2022 Lynx season story thus far and are a driving factor behind the team’s 1-6 start through seven games.
“There’s always a quarter where our defensive rating is just not very good,” Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve said postgame. “Whether it’s Vegas where you [have a] 140 defensive rating or in Indiana [have a] 180 defensive rating, I’m curious what this one will be. ... Until you find a defensive identity and you play with some toughness and you don’t get outworked, this is going to be the result. This isn’t that hard.”
Minnesota’s defense allowed 1.22 points per possession (122 defensive rating) on 57.3% true shooting. No team in the WNBA is going to win a game while playing that level of defense.
The Lynx were outworked and weren’t as tough as the Wings were tonight, which showed on the glass. The rebounding tally entering the halftime break was 17-16 Dallas. The Wings came out of the tunnel in the third firing from deep, which presented offensive rebounding opportunities that Dallas took full advantage of. Dallas collected six of their own misses in the third, while Minnesota was only able to get one (!) defensive rebound in that frame.
“We talked about that it would be more challenging to go get some rebounds, but we certainly wanted to keep them off the glass,” Reeve said. “That was a priority. Probably couldn’t tell.”
There was plenty of ball-watching going on when 3-point shots went up, which is simply an indication that players aren’t locked in on every play.
Dallas by my count corralled six offensive rebounds (another was a missed rebound chance out on the Lynx that led to a second chance) that led to 11 points in the third quarter alone; four of the six led to points, and on two trips the Wings had multiple offensive rebounds. The Wings for the game scored 23 second chance points on 17 second chance possessions.
Minnesota held Dallas to 71 points on all 70 other possessions, which is good enough to get the job done most nights. But that’s not going to matter if the Lynx allow 15 offensive rebounds.
Minnesota made superstar guard Arike Ogunbowale take 18 shots to score her 20 points and sent her to the free throw line just twice, which makes tonight feel like a game the Lynx let slip away because of a lack of tenacity and hustle.
Ogunbowale and Mabrey are arguably the league’s most dynamic back-court, but slowing them down gets exponentially more difficult when they get second chances or defensive breakdowns occur. To Jefferson, the defensive issues from rebounding to breakdowns comes down to one thing.
“Honestly, it’s trust and helping each other,” Jefferson told Canis Hoopus postgame when asked about the No. 1 step the team needs to take for the defense to improve. “It can’t be a 1-on-1 game. This league is too good; players are too good to get downhill. We have to make sure that we’re in our schemes, we’re in our help. That comes with trust, that comes with chemistry, and we’re going to be better. I’m going to make sure of that.”
Thankfully for the Lynx they have just one game over the next seven days and will be in Minneapolis for the next 10 days, so there will be plenty of practice time for a team that desperately needs to find cohesion and build that trust on both ends.
Two things cohesion doesn’t affect are heart and effort. With Minnesota in a 1-6 hole, we’ll learn how much collective fight they have while there’s still time to salvage a disastrous start.
Syl doing Syl things
Sylvia Fowles led Minnesota with 14 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and three steals in what was a truly sensational defensive performance.
The Wings in the first half were evidently scared to drive into the paint because of the reigning Defensive Player of the Year’s impact, as key Dallas ball-handlers and drivers were rejected and heavily contested left and right. Fowles also prevented post-ups with well-timed reach-around on entry passes.
Offensively, Fowles didn’t get enough touches to put up more than nine shots (making six), but was used in ways that created open looks for others. Reeve placed Fowles atop the key to receive entries from point guard Moriah Jefferson in order to help Kayla McBride get free. From there, Fowles either handed the ball off to McBride or helped McBride create space on curls, which did very well in creating space. Hopefully this continues, especially against bigger teams that can defend Fowles more effectively.
McBuckets power outage
McBride got good looks as result of the actions described above, but simply just couldn’t convert, especially in the third quarter. The Lynx star shot 1/6 from the floor in that frame, including 1/3 from 3. Shooting 0/3 from 2 will not continue, especially if McBride is as open as she got at times in the paint tonight.
After an incredible 24 points on 8/18 shooting in her first game of the season in Los Angeles on Tuesday, McBride has scored only 14 points on 4/19 shooting in the two games since. She will continue to be a central part of the offense — and rightfully so — but working to get the three-time All-Star as many clean looks as possible will be key to getting her back on track.
Next up for the Lynx is a home game against the New York Liberty on Tuesday night at 7 PM CT. Fans can watch the game on Amazon Prime Video and Bally Sports North.