The Minnesota Lynx entered Tuesday night’s contest against the Dallas Wings looking to erase two poor home showings from their memory: Sunday’s blowout loss to the Seattle Storm, and a historically abominable 40-point loss to the Wings at Target Center back on July 12.
Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Cheryl Reeve criticized her team’s effort postgame on Sunday, wondering aloud if her players wanted to be a team that protects its home floor, citing her team’s 6-10 home record vs a 9-7 road mark. The Lynx came out of the gates on Tuesday leaving no doubt they want to pay hard for the home fans.
Minnesota’s effort and intention on both ends of the floor was palpable — a good sign in a game that felt like a playoff tilt from the jump.
All-Star forward Napheesa Collier was the only Lynx to score until there was 2:12 left in the first quarter, something that would indicate Minnesota being in a deep hole to climb out of. Collier scored eight points on 4/5 shooting while the rest of the team shot 0/10 up until that point; but Minnesota led 11-9 after a Kayla McBride 3 at the 2:12 mark because held Wings stars Satou Sabally and Arike Ogunbowale to just two points on 1/6 shooting in the same span, and converted seven Wings turnovers into 10 points in the first quarter. Minnesota closed the frame on a 12-2 run to take an 18-11 lead after one.
ENDED Q1 ON A 12-2 RUN ‼️ pic.twitter.com/0MZg997DDO— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) August 23, 2023
“I think it’s both. If there’s an open shot, I’m gonna take it. But if the other team starts making adjustments like collapsing the paint, I need to be able to spray it out to my open teammates,” Collier told Canis Hoopus postgame in response to a question about how she weighs taking over versus working to get others going in a stretch like that. “It’s taking what’s there and then if they make the adjustment, we have to do the same.”
Rookie center Dorka Juhász’s stellar play on both ends of the floor carried over into the second quarter, helping Minnesota open the frame on a 4-0 push.
Dallas responded with an 8-0 sprint and kept it rolling all quarter en route to a 10/15 shooting performance in the period, including 4/5 on 3-pointers, led by a combined 23 points on 9/13 shooting from Sabally, Natasha Howard and Ogunbowale. The Wings also feasted on Lynx turnovers, scoring seven easy ones off of four Minnesota giveaways.
Minnesota kept pace with a pair of triples from McBride (who shot 4/8 from deep in the first half) and solid minutes from Bridget Carleton, filling in for Diamond Miller after the rookie was benched following an 0/5 shooting start that she compounded with lost handle turnover that resulted in a Wings layup. The Lynx second unit was terrific, out-scoring the Dallas 10-0 in the half.
Carleton was especially good, connecting on a crazy 3-pointer to cap off a 7-0 Lynx run to close the half:
“We wanted to make sure that we were a team that when we got punched with a run, because Dallas is going to make runs, that we understood that, we’re obviously trying to make sure it’s not too big of a run, that we’re gonna get our chance to make our run and stay tough mentally,” Reeve told Canis postgame. “I thought we did that, I thought we answered, like you said, at the end of that second quarter. To be able to go into the locker room up three, that was pretty big for us.”
The Lynx started the third quarter on a 7-2 run before an Ogunbowale 3-pointer triggered an incredible back-and-forth sequence featuring a combined 14 points between the two teams in just over two minutes of game action. Dallas then closed the quarter on a 12-4 run behind big buckets from their big three, including back-to-back 3s from Sabally and Ogunbowale, to climb within one, 60-59, at the end of the frame.
Reinforcements arrived in the fourth, as back-to-back bombs from Carleton and Rachel Banham and extended the lead to seven with 7:28 to play. From there, Minnesota one mid-range score and a banger 3 from both Carleton and Tiffany Mitchell, who also drew an offensive foul on Awak Kuier in the midst of that clutch bench scoring run.
After Collier and McBride scored 37 of the team’s 60 points through three quarters, ancillary scorers put up 18 of the first 20 Lynx points of the fourth, giving the Lynx stars well-timed help before crunch time.
Then, all hell broke loose.
Carleton, who was previously whistled for a Flagrant Penalty 1 on Sabally earlier in the game, got tangled up with and fouled the Wings star, who was not happy.
Here’s some of what went down in Minnesota.— Tyler DeLuca (@TylerDeLuca) August 23, 2023
Sabally and Carleton get tied up leading to a technical on Satou.
As the teams clear out Arike and Satou exchange word with some Lynx fans. pic.twitter.com/SzPFzIIKZw
Sabally was issued a technical foul after review and McBride sank the free throw to give Minnesota an 81-69 lead with 2:31 left to go. Seemingly out of reach, right? Nope.
McBride immediately fouled Wings guard Veronica Burton on an and-1 that cut the lead to nine. Minnesota then missed a pair of late-clock grenades, fouled Teaira McCowan after an offensive rebound, and didn’t block out on the second free throw, leading to a Maddy Siegrist jumper that cut it to six with 1:21 left, prompting a Reeve timeout.
Mitchell out of the timeout was called for a carrying violation before McCowan collected another offensive rebound off a missed 3 — one of Dallas’s seven offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter — and put it back in to make it an 8-0 Wings run in 1:28 of game time.
Collier finally stopped the bleeding by draining a mid-range jumper that gave the Lynx a lead with 34.4 seconds to play. Finally, a dagger? Wrong.
No one picked up Ogunbowale dribbling the ball across half-court and she walked in for a layup six seconds later. McBride made a pair of ensuing free throws before the game really got off the rails.
Carleton closed out too aggressively on a Sabally 3-point attempt, resulting in the Canadian’s Flagrant Penalty 1 foul and thus, an ejection. Sabally was hurt badly on the play (and seen wearing a boot in the bowels of the arena postgame), turning her left ankle on Carleton’s extended foot. While Sabally was on the ground, fans in the second row (still aggravated from Sabally’s reaction to the Carleton foul in the video above) inappropriately berated her and her Wings teammates.
Later, while Satou was down hurt after landing on Carleton’s foot, words were exchanged with different fans.— Tyler DeLuca (@TylerDeLuca) August 23, 2023
The two fans were ejected. pic.twitter.com/NWVq36RrWA
Coach Trammell was not happy at what transpired in tonight’s game- specifically when Satou went down.— Dorothy J. Gentry (@DorothyJGentry) August 23, 2023
“Shouts of ‘I’m glad your hurt.’ And ‘you’re probably faking it…there’s no place for that.”
Coach Trammell said Minnesota Coach Cheryl Reeves apologized. #wnbatwitter https://t.co/VixLWTRBTm
Wings guard Crystal Dangerfield - who won ROY in Minnesota in 2020- reached 1,000 career points tonight. She also spoke on the fan comments tonight. The Wings play at home Thursday in a rematch against the Lynx. #WNBA #WNBATwitter pic.twitter.com/2jz469WY06— Dorothy J. Gentry (@DorothyJGentry) August 23, 2023
During her postgame press conference, Reeve addressed the incident — which led to three fans being ejected, according to an on-site Minneapolis Police Department officer.
“Obviously there is no place for that. I was disappointed. We apologized. I apologized at the time. I apologized to Coach Trammell. Our fans are passionate. You just can’t cross the line of celebrating someone’s injury. We wouldn’t want that for sure. Again, we apologized that that happened to Satou,” she said. “It was a great game otherwise. I know when you’re injured — and I know she was injured pretty good — that’s the last thing you expect fans to do.”
Collier echoed those sentiments.
“Of course it gets competitive and tensions are running high when we’re on the court, but we never want to see someone getting hurt. Celebrating that is super inappropriate and not something that represents us as a team or as players. I did think that fan deserved to get kicked out because I don’t want that to represent who we are as Lynx,” she added. “A lot of our fans — most of our fans — aren’t like that, so we don’t want that to tarnish who we are.”
Sabally remained down for a couple minutes before walking very gingerly to the Wings bench during the review. She gutted it out and made her way to the free throw line, where she made all three free throws to cut the game to 85-82 with 25.4 seconds left. Dallas kept possession because it was a Flagrant, and Mitchell fouled Burton on the inbound, giving the Wings another pair of freebies. Burton split the pair, with the second shot careening into the first row after a scrum for it in the middle of the floor, prompting yet another review; this time, Reeve challenged the on-court call of Wings ball.
Minnesota won the challenge, gained possession and Collier made her first free throw before missing the second; however, Howard was whistled for a lane violation, and Collier made good on another chance to make it a two-possession game.
Ogunbowale then came down and made a crazy 3 in front of the Lynx bench to cut the lead to one, 87-86, with 19.6 seconds left, and tried again after a pair of McBride free throws. What looked to be an on-the-money shot flew off the rim and the Lynx held on 91-86. On Ogunbowale’s way back up the floor, Reeve (Arike’s coach with USA Basketball) gave her a high five, acknowledging the incredible fight to extend the game.
Let’s get into the takeaways.
Carleton Leads a Big Night From the Bench
There is no player on the Minnesota Lynx whose success Lynx players are more eager to celebrate than Bridget Carleton’s.
The Chatham-Kent, Ontario, Canada native delivered on a night her team needed her badly. Carleton scored 14 points off the bench, connecting on 4/6 3-point attempts, to go along with five rebounds, two assists and a block in 27 minutes.
The Lynx are 7-4 this season when Bridget Carleton plays 16+ minutes. #WNBA— Richard Cohen (@RichardCohen1) August 23, 2023
“It was awesome. To see those go down and she was doing great on defense as well, just really solid on both ends of the floor,” Collier said of Carleton, a bridesmaid in Phee’s wedding last fall. “It’s so fun. Whenever people make threes in general, it’s like the most fun to celebrate. That’s what we call her our hot pocket because she’s got that hot hand, so it was really fun.”
Collier made sure to get in a jab at her close friend.
“Also, it’s funny because the nicest person on our team got ejected,” she said with a laugh.
“The unfortunate part was Collier massively botched that play and BC tried to save her. ... I would ask for Phee to pay the fine if I were BC,” Reeve said with a laugh.
temptinggggggg lol no, it was definitely still my big ole foot that did the damage https://t.co/nJ2Xfy7j82— Bridget Carleton (@bridgecarleton) August 23, 2023
“We needed BC, right, because [Diamond] Miller struggled. And we just made a decision [to play Carleton over Miller]. Just got a little bit more shooting. BC was [more] confident the longer she stayed [in]. She’s done big things for us all season in terms of when she gets an opportunity,” Reeve said. “When I go back to stretches where she was on the floor a lot, she was helpful. So, that’s how we’ll play down the stretch. If players are playing well, they play. if they’re not, then we’re gonna seek help from our bench.”
That last note will be one to follow, as the production from Lynx players beyond Collier and McBride has been consistently inconsistent. However, Reeve is confident in her bench group, who outscored the Wings reserves 25-6.
Rachel Banham also came through, scoring five points (including a clutch 3 in the fourth), dropping a pair of dimes and bringing stabilizing play in the half-court that helped the team generate clean looks. She played all but three of her minutes alongside Dorka Juhász, whose interior defense and playmaking drove much of the success the second unit enjoyed.
Juhász scored only two points, but grabbed five rebounds (three offensive) and dished out a career-high seven assists to pair with a career-high three steals in just 14 minutes, in which the Lynx were a +20. The rookie became the first player in WNBA history to produce that stat line in 15 minutes played or less.
Minnesota will need all three of them to keep rolling if they want to finish the season strong and earn a trip to the playoffs.
The Stars Keep Shining
Fellow three-time All-Stars Napheesa Collier and Kayla McBride haven’t received enough credit around the WNBA for what they’ve done to not only keep this Lynx team afloat, but in the thick of the playoff race.
With a win and Atlanta Dream loss on Tuesday night, Minnesota is now tied for fifth in the WNBA standings. Atlanta owns the tiebreaker, but the Lynx will host Atlanta next Friday in a game with potentially massive playoff seeding implications.
Collier and McBride combined for 50 points as two of three Lynx players (Carleton, 14) in double figures. Phee poured in a game-high 29 points on 11/16 shooting to go with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, while McBuckets added 21 points on 6/15 shooting, six rebounds, five assists and two steals.
By the way, the Minnesota #Lynx are now 5-0 this season when both Napheesa Collier and Kayla McBride both score 20 or more points in the same game.— Mitchell Hansen (@M_Hansen13) August 23, 2023
“It’s really fun playing with K Mac. I think people both have to guard us really tight, so that opens up a lot of opportunities on offense that we can exploit. I’m having fun out there. I think this is a great matchup and I love when we have our little two-man game,” Collier told Canis postgame. “Leadership-wise, I think we’re just both doing the best that we can and trying to stay strong for the team. Help them in any way we can and keeping ourselves up as well.”
“It’s just constant communication. We get different looks every game. Different opponents, different defenders. We know that the team goes as we go, especially on offense, so we’re just trying to come out and try and find ways to get easy ones,” McBride added. “Just being able to make adjustments, I think it’s something we’ve done over the last couple games. It’s just been fun. I think we’ve just been enjoying the process of figuring each other out and doing what we can to help our team win.”
Reeve praised her two stars for their recent play:
“[Kayla] and Phee have put the team on their backs. And when they play like that, usually we’re successful,” she said, before shifting her focus to McBride. “K-Mac has been locked in on being extremely competitive and taking the responsibility of a difficult guard. Mac’s been so helpful in being kind of the brains on the floor and play calling and being in lockstep with what we’re trying to do, understanding why we would run something just really communicating and giving of herself.”
McBride shot 4/11 from 3 en route to the Lynx connecting on a season-high 11 3-pointers, by way of shooting an impressive 10/24 (41.7%) from above the break. That is a welcomed sight considering Minnesota shot just 1/13 (7.7%) on those ATB 3s in Sunday’s loss to Seattle.
“I think we’ve been getting some good looks the last couple games, they just haven’t been going down. That’s part of who we are,” McBride told Canis, emphasizing that it’s important the Lynx are taking 3s, even if they aren’t falling. “When we move the ball side to side, that’s where we get really good looks. Just making sure that we’re getting the right shot every time down and just remaining confident.”
Reeve agreed that the process influenced results on Tuesday more than the law of averages simply working itself out.
“I do think that our success from the three-point line is a product of playing more shooters, Banham and Carleton, being a big part of what we were doing. That’s something we have talked a lot about as a staff, that maybe we need to help ourselves a little bit and play the shooters a little bit more,” she said.
“Obviously that was that was a big part of our success tonight, being able to do that takes a lot of pressure off K-Mac to have to make every darn 3. So yeah, that’s exactly what we’ll keep doing if Carleton can keep that confidence and be such a spark of the bench, her and Banham, that’s pretty big for us.”
Five of the Lynx’s final seven opponents down the stretch have offenses with pretty explosive potential, so generating and converting open 3s at a higher clip like they did Tuesday could determine whether they open the playoffs in Las Vegas or Dallas — series with wildly different expected outcomes.
The Lynx will travel to Dallas today for a rematch with the Wings on Thursday at 7 PM CT. Fans can watch the game on Bally Sports North Extra.
How Minnesota manages the expected emotions in that game considering what happened Tuesday will be pivotal.
“I think the chip on our shoulder will be even bigger when we get to Dallas. We know they’re going to come out with a different energy. Playing on their court, especially how this game ended, bang bang plays at the end of the game,” McBride said.
“But it’s playoff basketball right now. I think everybody in the league is playing for a spot in the playoffs and we have to go down with that mentality. ... As long as we keep that mindset and just play as hard as we can and just have that mindset of whatever it takes, we’re gonna give ourselves a chance to win the game. We’re just going to bottle up those good parts of what we had today and take them with us on the road.”