Lynx Win Game 1, Beat Mercury 85-62
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All week long, the Minnesota Lynx were reminded they were 5-0 against the Phoenix Mercury.
All week long, Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve reminded anyone that would listen that the Lynx hadn’t played Phoenix since July 24.
"We haven't changed," Reeve said. "We heard quite a bit about how different Phoenix is and you know the thing that we can control is what we do, and we're not different."
The tone was set early by point guard Lindsay Whalen. Just three minutes into the game, Whalen was knocked down on defense by the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi. Whalen was called for the offensive foul, but just seconds later, after grimacing in pain, Whalen ran back down the court and made an off-balanced layup.
That pretty much defined Whalen's night.
She finished with 10 points in the quarter; helping give the Lynx a 24-16 lead. She also shot 5-of-7 from the field. The Lynx shot 55.6 percent from the field while holding Phoenix to just 31.8 percent.
If fans thought the Lynx looked good in the first quarter, they were in for a treat in the second. The Lynx built on their lead thanks to great play from Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore. The three combined for 39 points at the half alone. While the Lynx had their offense going (51.4 percent from the field), defense might have been what Reeve was most proud of.
The Lynx were able to limit the Mercury to just 24.3 percent from the field. Taurasi led the way for Phoenix with eight points, but was just 2-of-7 from the field. Her counterparts were struggling as well, the frontline of DeWanna Bonner, Candice Dupree and Brittney Griner shot a combined 3-of-18.
It wasn’t as dominant as the second, but the Lynx had a strong third quarter, outscoring Phoenix 22-20. The fourth quarter consisted of Phoenix trying to make the game respectable, while Minnesota making a statement while giving its starters a breather at the same time. All of the Lynx starters besides Maya Moore exited the game with 5:40 left in the fourth. Moore was taken out less than a minute later.
It was a rare night for Minnesota to have all three of its biggest scorers on their games. Moore and Whalen both finished with 20 points, while Augustus finished with 18. Whalen had the most complete game, finishing with six rebounds and five assists.
Shooting guard Monica Wright added 11 points off the bench. An underrated aspect of the night might have been the defensive play of both Rebekkah Brunson and Janel McCarville. The duo held Griner and Dupree to just 17 combined points on 7-of-18 shooting.
"We look at Rebekkah Brunson as our defensive anchor," Augustus said. "She's had some of the toughest assignments being matched up on Candice Dupree and sometimes Brittney Griner. (It) just kind of ignited us tonight."
For the second straight series, the Lynx take a 1-0 lead. Minnesota will try to sweep Phoenix on the road to secure a trip to its third WNBA Finals in as many seasons.
"I think this team was focused," Augustus said. "We are going to enjoy this win for the moment and come Saturday morning when we have to step back on the court for practice, we need to figure out what we need to do for the next 40 minutes of basketball."
Leader of the Pack: Lindsay Whalen
It was evident that Whalen was on her get from the get-go and she got her team off to a fast start. Whalen has done everything the Lynx have needed from her this season, and after struggling a bit in the Seattle series, Whalen knew she had to play well for the Lynx to make a run at the Finals.
She ended the night with 20 points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal while shooting 10-of-15 from the field.
"Lindsay Whalen was doing her thing early," Reeve said. "We knew the pick and roll game was going to be something that she would enjoy... She was really ready and took advantage."
Highlight of the Game
With 1.1 seconds left in the first half, Moore nailed a 3-pointer from 27 feet out. Maybe fans should have been more surprised, but with Moore, it’s something we’ve grown accustomed to over the season.
That shot gave the Lynx a 45-22 lead into the half and emptied the noise in the Target Center.
The Numbers Game
"Yeah, they play with a lot of pace. It was something that we knew coming in. And they had their way with it pretty much the whole game, so we definitely have to do better than that in Game 2." — Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi on the Lynx scoring 20 fast break points
The Lynx will travel to Phoenix for Game 2 at 4 p.m. CST. The game will be aired on ESPN2 and BOB 106.1 FM.
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