After a hard earned sweep of the Seattle Storm in the first round, the Minnesota Lynx opened up the Western conference finals with a huge win at home against the Phoenix Sun 85-62 in front of an electrified Target Center crowd.
“What happened was they made every play on both ends. They had a hell of a game… They had a checklist and they probably did everything on it. And we had a checklist and we didn’t do anything on it, and we need to change that.”
Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi
The Lynx won all five regular season games against the Mercury, but didn’t allow that success to alter their strategy. Phoenix is a talented team with nice blend of veterans and youth. This was the first time they faced the Lynx since Russ Pennell took over the Head Coach position, and Phoenix hoped to use that to their advantage.
Minnesota took the lead early, and built off extremely efficient play on both sides of the floor. After pushing the lead to 8 by the end of the first, they completely took over during the second quarter with very impressive defense (allowing only 6 points in the quarter) and smart play on the offense by putting up 21 points during that same stretch. They ended the half on a gorgeous 3 point shot by Maya Moore with 1.3 seconds on the clock that drove the momentum even further in Minnesota’s direction.
“It was our defense, that’s what fueled us, that is what always fuels us. Get deflections, get stops, get rebounds. In the second: that was our best effort, being locked in together and trying to get it done.”
Minnesota Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve
During the fist half: Moore, Augustus, and Whalen combined for 39 of the Lynx 45 points, while the Mercury only scored 22 points total during the first half. The Lynx were able to convert on 51% of their first half shots, while holding the Mercury to only 24% from the floor during that time.
Clearly defense made the difference, and the Mercury were never able to recover from the hole they had dug themselves into early. They finished the game with only two players in double-digits and did not have one play who shot above 50% during the contest.
Diana Taurasi played with a lot of effort, but never really found her shot finishing the night with 15 points on 4-14 shooting, while adding four rebounds and 2 assists. During the forth quarter there was an on court incident between long time friends and rivals Diana Taurasi and Seimone Augustus. It started with pushing and shoving, and ended with Taurasi hitting Augustus with a kiss on the cheek that almost led to a fight before teammates broke up the exchange.
Rookie sensation Brittney Griner played a good game for Phoenix finishing the night with 13 points on 6-12 shooting, while adding 6 boards, but found her team out of position to earn a victory.
“We’re going to have to get out of our own way, and I think the best way to do that is to focus on what we do. I thought tonight we didn’t do the little things, especially defensively we were terrible…It’s the Western Conference Finals and we need to play accordingly. Hopefully we can figure that out in the next couple of days.”
Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Russ Pennell
Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, and Seimone Augustus all had remarkable games, proving that the strength of teamwork can far outweigh the abilities of an individual.
“I think we always feed off each other. The whole team does. We all try and bring energy and we all try to be ourselves, enjoy the game and play hard. I thought early on today we were able to set the tone.”
Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen
Lindsay Whalen posted 20 points to go with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Maya Moore also finished with 20 points, contributing 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals. And Seimone Augustus put up 18 points to go with 5 boards, and 2 steals. In addition, all three players finished the game shooting above 50% from the floor.
Monica Wright added 11 points of the bench and played with a ton of energy, while Devereaux Peters continues to grow as a defensive intimidator, helping the Lynx bench to keep a potent Mercury offense in check during the contest.
“That is what we wanted to do, just come out and be aggressive and defensively try and dictate action more. Diana and Candice Pupree is probably the toughest matchup in a pick-and-roll situation, and we tried to limit that as much as we could.”
Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus
Game 2 will take place Sunday at Phoenix at 4pm on ESPN2. With the WNBA Finals around the corner Minnesota has a chance to secure the Western Conference for the third consecutive season, and Phoenix is now fighting for survival.