Mercury Hand Lynx First Home Loss of Season, 80-72

Megan Schuster
Web Editorial Assistant

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The road-weary Lynx were finally back in Target Center on Sunday afternoon to play in the team’s first home game in over two weeks.

Unfortunately, the homecoming wasn’t as smooth as Minnesota hoped.

The Lynx fell to the Phoenix Mercury 80-72 on Sunday at Target Centerj—the team’s second straight loss after falling to the Atlanta Dream on Friday night.

Lynx vs. Mercury
Phoenix, sporting the league’s second-best record, came into Minneapolis with something to prove on Sunday, and they did just that. Veteran guard Diana Taurasi took hold of the game early on in the first quarter and never relinquished control. She was hot from the floor, shooting 6-of-10, and finished with a game-high 21 points.

The question early in the first quarter, as it is for all WNBA teams facing the Mercury, was how to defend against Brittney Griner. At 6-foot-8, she was a good four inches taller than anyone else on the floor.

The Lynx started out using double teams on Griner in the post, but once she got the ball she was too difficult to stop. Coach Cheryl Reeve decided to focus on denying Griner the basketball and had success—Griner had only two points in the first.

Despite containing Griner, the Lynx couldn’t hold down the Mercury’s hot shooting start. Phoenix went 9-of-17 in the first, shot 50 percent from behind the 3-point arch, and led the game 26-12 after the first. Taurasi led all scorers with nine points. The Lynx pulled within 10 points midway through the second, but Phoenix continued their hot shooting. The Mercury were 5-of-9 from 3 and shot 59 percent from the floor in the first half. By comparison, the Lynx shot only 35 percent and had two 3’s in the half—both from Maya Moore.

Phoenix stretched to its largest lead of the game, 23 points, in the second. Minnesota pushed the tempo to try to close the gap, and Damiris Dantas got a quick basket with seconds left in the quarter to close out the half. The Lynx went into halftime down 50-31.

“For the second game in a row, a team dropped 50 points on us in a half, and it’s hard for us,” coach Cheryl Reeve said after the game. “You know, when we’re not putting the ball in the hole at the same rate, you know, trying to win a shootout and we have to, you know, keep up with 50 points in a half it’s going to be hard for us. So until we figure that out, games will be really hard.”

The Lynx came out of the locker room in the third looking to cut into the Mercury lead. Seimone Augustus had back-to-back buckets just over two minutes in to put the Lynx within 15.

Phoenix called a timeout and the crowd was clammoring for a comeback, but the Mercury refused to lose their rhythm.

Griner was a defensive presence in the low paint, with four blocked shots and seven rebounds. Her size and agility in the post made things tough on Lynx rebounders and tough for the team to try to mount a comeback.

With under a minute to go in the period, Tricia Liston and Tan White hit back-to-back 3’s to bring the Lynx within 12, but a quick Griner bucket would put the score at 68-54 going into the fourth.

The fourth quarter was highlighted by the stellar play and leadership of Tan White (13 points on 5-of-10 shooting) coming off of the bench, and the return of a familiar face to the floor—Monica Wright.

Wright underwent knee surgery this spring and these were her first minutes on the floor in 2014. She recorded her first basket of the year with just over three minutes left in the game to bring the score to 78-65.

In the team’s next posession, Asia Taylor had a bucket and a foul. Her three-point play brought the Lynx within 10, the closest they had been to Phoenix since the second quarter. Taylor was part of the fourth quarter lineup that featured four bench players and three rookies—White, Wright, Taylor, Tricia Liston and Damiris Dantas.

Despite losing the game, the charge these bench players put up against the starting lineup for Phoenix was encouraging to many of the starters, including Maya Moore. “You know, for them to come in, just keep working and competing, it’s definitely one way to make sure that we don’t take a step backwards,” Moore said. “They got some experience tonight and hopefully that’ll benefit us later.” Though Minnesota continued trimming into the lead—bringing it all the way down to just six points late in the fourth—the team ran out of time and fell to the Mercury 80-72.

Leader of the Pack: Tan White

Tan White came off the bench for Minnesota and played 28 minutes, including all of the fourth quarter and much of the third.

White had 13 points in the contest, and provided veteran leadership late in the game when the Lynx had rookies Tricia Liston, Asia Taylor and Damiris Dantas on the court at the same time.

Highlight of the Night

Monica Wright came into the game for Minnesota with 5:33 left to play. Wright hadn’t been on the floor for the Lynx this season as she was out after undergoing knee surgery this spring.

Wright received a standing ovation from the crowd as soon as Reeve sent her to the scorers table to check into the game. She finished out the game for Minnesota and tallied three points.

Teammate Janel McCarville talked about Wright’s return following the game, saying, “People got good quality playing time tonight—you know Monica got in, got it, hopefully, the cob webs out. You know, get her a little more comfortable, acclimated as the games go on. She’s going to be big for us coming in.”

The Numbers Game

  • Rookie Tricia Liston saw the second-consecutive game where her minutes on the floor were in double-digits. Liston played 19 minutes, scored five points and had two rebounds.

  • Maya Moore led the Lynx in scoring with 14 points on 6-of-18 shooting.

  • Phoenix shot nearly 60 percent from the field in the first half, and finished the game with a 52.5 percent field goal percentage.

  • This is the second game in a row where the Lynx have allowed 50 points or more in the first half.

  • Quotable

    “This is definitely something we have to get ourselves out of. We’ve got to change the momentum that our team’s in right now, and we have a long week. We have several opportunities to get that done, so that’s where our focus is going to be.”— Maya Moore on what the team needs to do to break their two-game losing streak

    Looking Ahead

    The Lynx get no break as they go on to play three games in five days—including two on the road. On Tuesday Minnesota is back on the west coast to face the Sparks at 9:30 p.m., and then they head to Phoenix to face the Mercury at 9:00 p.m. Both games can be heard at BOB 106.1 FM or seen on WNBA LiveAccess.

    The team wraps up the week with a home game against Washington on Friday night at 7:00 p.m., and then another home game at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday against Indiana.

    For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Lynx on Twitter.