Third Quarter's A Charm
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MINNEAPOLIS, MINN. -- The third quarter of Game 2 – full of momentum-swinging plays and football-like physicality – had a little bit of everything. So much so that not even Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve’s suit jacket could survive the mayhem.
It was also the turning point of this young series.
Staring at a potential 2-0 series deficit after trailing in the early part of the second half, Seimone Augustus scored 15 and Maya Moore added 10 points in the third quarter alone as the Lynx outscored the Fever, 29-22, in the decisive quarter on their way to an 83-71 victory on Wednesday night to level the WNBA Finals at one game apiece.
Monica Wright came off the bench and made some tough plays to ignite the defense, Augustus and Moore started playing like the first and second team All-WNBA players that they are, respectively, and of course, there was that technical foul with 3:10 left to go in the third quarter that provoked Reeve to defiantly disrobe as she protested a call.
“Clearly I wasn’t happy in that moment,” a coy Reeve said.
Yeah, and there’s a lot of lakes in Minnesota.
Once the Lynx got going, however, they never looked back and they started to look like the team that went 27-7 in the regular season and was the overwhelming favorite to defend their WNBA title.
“A lot of things changed the flow of the game, little pieces here and there,” Moore said. “Monica Wright coming in the game and getting some big steals changed the flow of the game. Lindsay (Whalen) getting hot there for a minute and hitting two big shots changed the flow of the game. Going in there and getting consecutive stops in a row changed the flow of the game, so everybody had their part.”
None bigger, however, than Augustus and Moore, who scored 25 of the team’s 29 third quarter points and combined to finish with 50 for the game. Both players started off cold – Augustus missed her first five attempts and Moore started 1-for-4 – but with these two stars, it’s only a matter of time before the ball finds the bottom of the net.
On the heels of a poor fourth quarter in Game 1 where she scored only one point, and a first half in Game 2 where she scored only four, Augustus, the 2011 WNBA Finals MVP, was eager to show her team again that she could be the one to lift them to victory in the second half.
“I always have a fire lit under me; when you play under Coach Reeve, nothing is ever good enough for her,” Augustus said. “I didn't have the best first half, but I knew that shots were going to fall if I continued to take the shots that I normally take or at least be aggressive and get to the basket.”
After the game, Reeve said this is the type of “MVP performance” the Lynx need out of Augustus, especially since in Game 2, unlike in Game 1, Augustus was able to keep her momentum going in the fourth quarter.
“Seimone Augustus has the recognition she has to do that,” Reeve said of clutch performances in the final stanza. “If you have Tamika Catchings doing it, we have to do it.”
Catchings led the Fever with 27 points – matching Augustus’s total – and also grabbed eight rebounds.
It wasn’t just Augustus in the fourth quarter, however, that stepped up for the Lynx; the whole team responded. And Reeve’s theatrical technical might have had something to do with it.
“[Reeve] wanted to light a fire under us,” Minnesota forward/center Taj McWilliams-Franklin said. “She wanted to light a fire under the refs and everything else and the fans and energize us, which is what she did. She's very calculating in everything she does.”
“You all think she's out of control but she's not, by far,” continued McWilliams-Franklin with a hint of wit. “It takes a lot of control to take your jacket off that nicely and hand it to your assistant.“
The sequence, which started on what the Lynx thought should have been a foul call for Lindsay Whalen, also resulted in a normally reserved Whalen getting a technical.
“I got a technical before [Reeve] did,” Whalen said. “Great point guard and great coach are always on the same page.”
Humility aside, after the Fever made the two technical free throws, the Lynx outscored them, 35-21, the rest of the way.
Regardless of what the ultimate trigger was, the Lynx delivered in what was essentially a must-win game and they may very well look back on that tumultuous third quarter and view it as a season-defining 10 minutes.
They could be grounded in an 0-2 hole, but instead they are riding high with momentum. They just exposed a tough Fever team in the second half and maybe more important than anything, outworked them physically.
In Game 1, everyone said that the Fever drew first blood. But now, with the way Minnesota responded, the Fever have to be first ones staggering.
Now it’s off to Indianapolis for two more games of escalating importance between these two teams.
No suit jacket is safe.