Game 1 Notebook: 15,000 Strong
Oct 3 2011 4:08AM
Packing the Rafters
Sunday’s Game 1 marked the second-biggest crowd in Minensota Lynx history, with 15,258 showing up to watch the Lynx take down the Dream in Game 1. The highest total came on July 14, 2004, in University of Minnesota product Lindsay Whalen’s first game back in Minneapolis as a member of the Connecticut Sun, when 16,227 showed up at the Target Center.
“It was amazing just to run out and see the white pompoms waving in the air and the seats are actually filled, even the upper row,” said Lynx guard Seimone Augustus, who scored 23 points on the night. “It’s amazing to see how the community has embraced us, and they’re coming out and supporting us. From tip to the last horn, it was loud, to the point where we had to call our plays two or three times to relay to the team.”
“Just a great atmosphere,” said Whalen, the Lynx’ point guard. “Walking in to warm up, we saw the white pompoms, like Seimone said – that was pretty cool. And everybody got into the game there. It took us a little while to get playing, but once we got going, it was really loud. It was a great atmosphere, and we hope for another great atmosphere on Wednesday night.”
“It was really exciting,” said Rebekkah Brunson. “They really were a great sixth man tonight.”
What a Difference 27 Wins (And a Finals Appearance) Make
Lynx fans have steadily built up their numbers over the course of this year. But it’s taken some nudging.
“Linsday Whalen in the beginning of the season told me, ‘You know, coach, it’s a bandwagon town,’” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve. “We talked about how we know if we win games, we’ll get more people. She said ‘I lived here a long time – it’s a bandwagon town. You win and they’ll come.’
“Obviously tonight, with 15,000 here, that came to be true. And they love their favorite daughter in Lindsay – and she didn’t disappoint them.”
Angel McCoughtry set a new WNBA Finals record with 19 points in the third quarter – as part of a game-high 32 points on the night. In doing so, she also set a new mark for consecutive points, after scoring 14 straight points for the Dream between the end of the second quarter and the middle of the third.
But the historic run might have been a double-edged sword for the Dream. When McCoughtry went cold, the rest of the team had already fallen out of rhythm, deferring to her for seven minutes of game time.
And it showed. After McCoughtry hit a pair of free throws with 25 seconds left in the third quarter, the Dream didn’t score again until Courtney Paris hit a layup with 5:26 left in the fourth quarter.
“I think we slowed down,” said Izi Castro Marques. “We weren’t playing as aggressive as we usually do to get our running game going. Also, Lindsey and Angel were the hot hands in the second half, so we had to feed them.”
I lived here a long time – it’s a bandwagon town. You win and they’ll come. -- Lindsay Whalen, as told by Cheryl ReeveThe Dream have gone through McCoughtry all season long, but rarely this dramatically.
“I feel if we got [the other players] more involved, they’d score their normal 10 points, then that’s the game right there,” McCoughtry said. “So we’re going to figure out a way the next game to get them more involved. We’ve got to. They definitely are a big part of our team, and we need them. So I take that responsibility as the leader of this team to look for them more and get them involved, especially Sancho in the post.”
With 11 blocks on the night -- including a game-high three by Taj McWilliams-Franklin - the Lynx set a new Finals record. The 17 combined blocks for the two teams also set a new mark.
Something Going Around
McWilliams-Franklin had to leave the game for a few minutes in the first half because of a stomach bug that was making her nauseous. The Lynx attempted to get her an IV at halftime to replenish lost nutrients, but couldn’t manage to get one in time.
The 40-year old then played all but five minutes of the second half.
“She came back out and was ready to roll and didn’t want to come out,” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve. “And Brunson – Brunson’s been sick [too]. Taj is just a – I guess ‘warrior’ is the only word I can think of. But she’s just somebody you can count on all the time, every possession.”
Before Sunday’s game, both teams emphasized the need to win the rebounding battle. One team seemed to take that more to heart than the other.
“I personally think we didn’t play a very good game tonight,” said Dream coach Marynell Meadors. “I thought we got ahead and we maintained that lead for a long time, but when we failed to go to the boards, I thought that was the difference in the momentum. As soon as they started rebounding, started scoring inside, we lose the momentum.”
Maya Moore treated that crowd to a play that looked like something out of Michael Jordan’s highlight reel two minutes into the second half. With the Lynx down, 42-40, she took the ball on the right baseline, drove toward the rim, leaped, hung in the air, hung in the air, hung in the air and with an outstretched arm, flipped the ball in for a reverse layup.
Maybe you should just watch it here.
Back from Brazil
According to Meadors, Atlanta center Erika de Souza – who had to leave the Dream in the middle of the Conference Finals to compete with the Brazilian National Team – will be available for Game 3.
And she’d appreciate it if you stopped asking about it.
“The transition [back into the lineup] is she’s on an airplane headed this direction, okay?” Meadors said. “I mean, I think she’s going to be in the flow. She’s played every day since she left us. They won the championship. They qualified for the Olympics. So thank goodness that’s out of the way, we get her back and she can help us win a few games here.”
Whatever it Takes
De Souza should provide an immediate boost on the inside for the Dream. Not to say that Angel McCoughtry hasn’t been doing her part to add some heft.
“I’ve been drinking a lot of protein shakes, eating a lot of meat, trying to build myself up a little bit to bang down there,” McCoughtry said. “But my metabolism is too high. As many times as I use the bathroom before a game, it ain’t gonna work.”