Lynx Stay Unbeaten, Learn From Tight Road Win
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Wednesday was not your typical 2012 Minnesota Lynx victory—one that came by an average of 15.3 points like the first four games of the season did.
Instead, Wednesday was a battle in Washington. Minnesota had a lead as large as 24 then watched as the Mystics chipped away in the second half, pulling even at 68-68 midway through the fourth and trading basket for basket with the Lynx till the end. Lindsay Whalen’s put-back with one second left was the difference in a 79-77 Lynx victory.
“We weren’t on point, I can’t explain it. Usually I am the first to say a win is a win, but I can’t say this,” coach Cheryl Reeve said after the game. “Usually, pretty or ugly, I am happy with a win, but I am going to express to my players that I am extremely disappointed. The good news is when we got down to crunch time, players make plays, and we made some plays.”
Still, Minnesota escaped with a victory and kept several regular season streaks intact. At 5-0, the Lynx tied their best start in franchise history (also achieved in 2008). They are 2-0 on the road and have extended their regular-season road winning streak to a franchise best seven games dating back to last year. A year ago, the Lynx won 13 games away from Target Center.
There’s a reason for this. Reeve said before the trip the team has the mindset that defense and rebounding are the key to winning on the road. If you do both you’ll have a shot, and more often than not the Lynx hold advantages in both areas.
During last night’s back and forth clash with Washington, the Lynx statistically won one of those categories. Minnesota out-rebounded the Mystics 30-22, including 12-9 on the offensive boards. But Minnesota had 18 turnovers to Washington’s 11, and the Mystics had a 12-5 advantage in steals on the night. Minnesota allowed Washington to shoot 48.3 percent from the field.
The Lynx were clicking in the first half, rallying off a 12-0 run to end the first quarter coupled with a 12-2 run to start the second. That pushed the lead to 38-14, and Minnesota held a 51-31 lead at halftime—thanks in large part to 65.5 percent shooting from the field.
The second half was a different story.
“Defensively we fell apart a little bit,” guard Seimone Augustus said. “But you have to give credit to Washington. They played the entire game, even when we were on the roll in the first half. In the second half I think we became content, and they were making baskets that we weren’t able to make.”
Reeve said picking up wins on this East Coast trip, which includes a stop on Friday at 3-0 Connecticut, wouldn’t be easy. Not only are the Lynx the unbeaten defending world champions, but every road trip presents its own set of new challenges.
Fortunately for Minnesota, the club has carved itself an identity away from Target Center over the past two years. The Lynx have grit and focus away from home that’s helped them go 15-4 in regular season road games since the start of the 2011 season.
“We have a toughness where when we go on the road going to win the game,” Reeve said. “Other people go there hoping to steal a game on the road. No, we’re going there to win the games. I think that mentality is one that’s proved to be good for us. We’ve had success last year, which has no bearing on this year. But that same mentality, you can still feel it with them.”
That strong-minded approach held true on Wednesday in Washington. When the Mystics made their second-half run, holding Minnesota 28 points after halftime, the Lynx found a way to pull out the victory.
The key is improving each day. Whalen said the team is going to get better from Wednesday’s game, starting on Friday at Connecticut.
Augustus said the team is built for handling late-game adversity, and that showed against the Mystics.
“It’s just about making plays. We were trying to end the game with our defense—that’s what we pride ourselves on,” Augustus said. “We have crunch time players, and at the end we made plays. We are a championship caliber team, so hopefully we will show that more.”
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