Lynx Rally, Stun Sun In Home Opener
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The Connecticut Sun had the right idea. Knowing that the Lynx were going through an emotional and routine-altering pregame as they raised their 2013 WNBA championship banner and received their rings from President Laurel Richie, the Sun took an aggressive approach and tried to throw the Lynx off their game.
Just not long enough.
Minnesota battled back from 16 down and beat Connecticut 90-87 in overtime during their regular season home opener at Target Center. The sellout crowd of 9,434 got their money’s worth in this one—they witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime moment as the banner went into the rafters, and then they got a first-hand view of the grit and determination that has yielded two WNBA titles in the past three years.
“That’s our team—we don’t give up,” Maya Moore said. “It’s who we are. We always believe in each other.”
Moore was the one who set the tone during the Lynx’s most difficult moments on Sunday night. With the Sun bottling up Lindsay Whalen—she was 2-of-11 during regulation—Minnesota not only needed to find ways to spread the ball around and get good looks offensively, but they also needed to divvy up who brought the ball up court. And with their All-Star point guard struggling, Lindsey Moore got significant minutes during the second and third quarters.
It was Maya Moore that brought the team back. She forced the issue getting to the basket inside, took the jumpers Connecticut gave her at the appropriate moments, and she came up with steals—five, to be exact—at just the right times. It was her unwillingness to let the game slip away that kept the Lynx afloat. Minnesota trailed by 16 at one point during the third, but after Moore hit a pair of free-throws, a mid-range jumper and a 3-pointer, she nearly single-handedly cut the Sun’s lead from 12 down to six in the span of 43 seconds late in the third.
Moments later, her block and rebound led to a sequence that, on a subsequent possession, helped the Lynx cut the lead to four heading into the fourth.
“It’s Maya,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It’s like all of a sudden you’ll see something wild and she’ll make three great plays….Maya’s a winner. She’s going to make those plays for you.”
Then, the Lynx’s other two All-Stars stepped up when it mattered most in the fourth.
First it was Augustus. The Lynx and Sun traded leads throughout the fourth but Connecticut led by two with 6.7 seconds left. Coming out of a timeout, Augustus found herself with the ball and drained a 13-footer that sent the game into overtime.
“When it left my hand, it felt good,” Augustus said. “I think [Chiney] Ogwumike was there and another player was there. But I was like, look, I’m going to get it up and I’m going to get it out of my hand. And when I released it, it felt great.”
Then, Whalen stepped up in overtime. She was bottled up all game long, but she was a perfect 3-of-3 from the field in those five minutes and scored 10 of her 17 on the night during crunch time.
“It’s a long game,” Whalen said. “It’s a little bit of being a veteran and just being able to put it behind you and forget about it really. You know, human nature is to just, you know you’ve made some mistakes but you have to be able to bounce back and forget about it and not be afraid to make plays.”
Moore led the way with 33 points, 12 rebounds and five steals. Augustus added 18 points on 9-of-14 shooting, and Whalen finished with 17. Damiris Dantas, who has been solid in her first two career starts in place of the injured Rebekkah Brunson, added 10 points and nine boards while also setting crucial screens in crunch time for the Lynx.
Minnesota’s starters scored 80 of the team’s 90 points. They scored 83 of the team’s 89 points against the Mystics on Friday.
For the Sun, Ogwumike had 25 points and 10 boards, while Katie Douglas had 13 and both Allison Hightower and Alyssa Thomas had 12 each.
Leader of the Pack: Maya Moore
One game after scoring 34 in the regular season opener, Moore dazzled once again here on her home Target Center floor. She opened up the night addressing the fans during the banner-raising by saying, “That’s what makes our home court so special. We get our confidence from you. We want to do it again. Let’s start it again tonight.” But it was Moore that gave the Lynx fans confidence on this night. After a sluggish start by the team, Target Center erupted with each move Moore made. Her spot-up jumpers were quick and precise, her aggressiveness to the rim was unmatched and her defense was relentless. She finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds and five steals. Another nice game for the reigning WNBA Finals MVP.
Highlight of the Night
In typical Lynx fashion, they had an assortment of big plays that helped them win this game coming—by and large—by All-Stars Whalen, Augustus and Moore. But it was Augustus’ big shot that forced overtime and ensured the Lynx had a shot to win this game. Coming out of a timeout and down by two, the Lynx called a play that was initially supposed to go to Whalen. It was the same play they called on the previous possession when Whalen turned it over. But Augustus ended up with the ball and hit a baseline jumper with 2.3 seconds left to tie the game.
The Numbers Game
“That’s Whaysy. She gives it her all every time she steps on the floor. She’s probably tired all the times when she’s not in the games because she’s dead tired…but we know once she stepped on the floor in that overtime series she was going to do what she needed to do to get us the W.” — Lynx guard Seimone Augustus
The Lynx get four days off after today’s game. They’ll next play in Tulsa on Friday, May 23 in a game that will be on WNBA Live Access as well as BOB 106.1 FM. They’ll return home on Saturday, May 24 to take on the New York Liberty in the tail-end of back-to-backs. That game is slated for 7 p.m. on BOB 106.1 FM.
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