Emotions were running high tonight as the defending champion Minnesota Lynx took on the 2011 runner-up Atlanta Dream at Target Center. After a dismal first half for the Lynx, they fought back to force two overtimes and were able to escape with a 97-93 win -- their 10th straight -- in dramatic fashion.
"At halftime, all I asked was that we didn't quit and that we stuck with it and tried to execute the game plan and try to score a little bit," said coach Cheryl Reeve. "We just said in timeouts, 'No matter how long it takes, we're just going to keep pluggin' away. No matter how long it takes and whatever it takes to get a W.' And fortunately for us, we were able to do that."
With the win, the Lynx join the 2000 Los Angeles Sparks as the second squad in league history to boast two 10-game winning streaks in a single season. They set a franchise record with 15 home wins, a year after finishing 14-3 at home. Finally, tonight's comeback from a 25-point deficit marked the biggest comeback in Lynx history and tied the biggest comeback in WNBA history.
The Lynx's struggle was apparent through the first quarter, only scoring 11 points on 15 percent shooting, and things didnt get much better through the second as they dug themselves a 52-31 hole by halftime.
"We knew we didn't want to play that way," said Brunson of the team's mentality going into the second half. "We knew we weren't going to win if we played that way. So we stopped looking at the scoreboard and went out there and did the things we needed to do."
Lynx vs. Dream
They wasted no time chipping away at that deficit, going on a 10-0 run over the first five minutes of the third quarter and not letting up through the fourth. They posted a 25-12 third quarter and shot 69.2 percent in the fourth to push the game into extra minutes.
In the first overtime, the Lynx got out to a lead right away on a Whalen jumper, and a Candice Wiggins three-pointer with just under three and a half remaining extended it. But Lindsey Harding answered with a short jump-shot and Angel McCoughtry drained a layup in the final seconds, tying it back up at 85.
Whalen was the first to score again in the second overtime, followed by long jumpers from Moore and Brunson. Angel McCoughtry attempted to answer, but Taj McWilliams-Franklins' two deep shots and Wiggins' two free throws iced the win for the Lynx.
Moore led the way for Minnesota with 23 points and 12 rebounds, with Brunson and McWilliams-Franklin chipping in 15 points each. Brunson also recorded 18 rebounds, including a career-high 10 offensive boards. Seimone Augustus finished with 14 points despite sitting for both overtimes due to an ankle injury she incurred during the fourth quarter.
Angel McCoughtry, though still not back to the starting lineup for the Dream, exploded for 30 points off the bench and nine rebounds, seven of them on the offensive end. Harding scored 23 points and Tiffany Hayes added 16.
Leader of the Pack: Maya Moore
Forward Maya Moore finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds tonight, notching her fifth double-double of the season. She had eight points in the third quarter and nine points on 4-of-5 shooting in the fourth to fuel the Lynx's record comeback. She shot 53.8 percent on the night.
"It's just the tale of two halves. So I'm just so proud of this team and how we responded. Our hearts came out, and the heart of this team, as Taj showed in that second half and in that overtime, our hearts don't quit. So we were able to pull out a big win, in our minds, against an Atlanta team that's playing very well."
Moore said that the composure of her team comes from knowing that hard work wins games and a competitive mindset, no matter the circumstances, always pays off.
"We never panic, which is really good to see. Usually what it comes down to is effort and focus. We have to increase our effort and focus. The last two or three games when we've come into the locker room down or not playing the way we want to, it's literally just locking in and just working harder and harder and harder, and knowing the other team has to break at some point. So we just did that and, for us, they broke in the second overtime."
Highlight of the Game
Angel McCoughtry had the last word in the first overtime, but the Lynx didn't let it deflate them. To start off the second overtime, Lindsay Whalen drove into the lane and converted a contested reverse layup to put the Lynx up 87-85. The Target Center crowd erupted, and the difficult shot ate away at an already frustrated Atlanta team.
The Dream shot 50 percent in the first quarter compared with the Lynx's 15 percent. ... Minnesota ended the game with a 42.9 shooting percentage while Atlanta shot 39.8 percent on the night. ... The Lynx had a 53-44 rebounding advantage. ... The Dream dominated the Lynx in the lane, holding a 60-34 points-in-the-paint advantage. ... The Lynx never led by more than four points, while the Dream led by as many as 25.
"You can't hold anybody accountable except yourselves. Anything that we did, we were doing to ourselves. We weren't playing the way we wanted to play, we weren't going through the offense, we weren't playing the way we wanted to play on defense. There were a lot of things we weren't doing the right way and the Lynx way. So we just had to come together, get rid of that. And the good thing about basketball is you have two halves. You have different quarters, you have timeouts, you can regroup. So that's what we had to do; we had to regroup and play the way that we wanted to play." -- Rebekkah Brunson
Tonight concludes the Lynxs four-game home stand, and they set out for San Antonio to face the Silver Stars Sunday at 2 p.m. They then take on the Sky in Chicago on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
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