Still, a win is a win, even a 10 point win (92-82) at home against a mediocre opponent. No, that's not right. This one was bigger than that. Coach Cheryl Reeves said afterward that it was a statement game, and I hope that's right. The Lynx came in with a 5 game losing streak and lots of excuses. But last night there were no excuses.
Instead, there was all-star Candice Wiggins in her first game back from a knee injury, putting in 16 minutes at both guard spots, scoring 8 points including a big 3 during a big 3rd quarter rally and providing a huge upgrade for the Lynx at the backup point guard spot.
And, there was Rebekah "the Beautiful Beast" (as at least one fan called her) Brunson, a late arrival from overseas in just her 3rd game with her new team, contributing 16 points and a team high 15 boards and 4 steals.
And, there was Monica Wright, suddenly not looking so much like the rookie that she so much has looked like up til now. But, now, 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting and nary a turnover.
And, consider that the Lynx' best player is still not back on the court after off-season surgery.
Still, I don't know how good of an opponent the Phoenix Mercury are, and so I don't know if this will turn out to be a statement game or not. It's only a statement if you back it up the rest of the way. But Wiggins', Brunson's and Wright's performances sure give you hope.
The first half was tight. The Mercs led 8 times, the Lynx 6 and there were 5 ties. The largest leads were 19-14 Phoenix and 40-36 Lynx. At the half it was 40-38. The Lynx cleverly dominated the final minutes of each half, snapping off 5-0 (1st quarter) and 7-2 (2nd) runs down the stretch. In the 1st quarter it was Wright and Quanitra Hollingsworth coming off the bench to score all of those 5 points, while in the 2nd it was Wiggins, also off the bench, with another big 3, and starters Brunson and Nicky Anosike with 2 each. Anosike (3) and Brunson (2) got all 5 of the Lynx' assists during the 2 1st half runs.
The Mercury won the 4th quarter 27-24, so now you know that the 3rd was all Lynx. From 40-40 they sprinted out to 64-48 lead at 2:46 and Phoenix never got closer than 6, and that was inside of 0:20. Wright scored 9, Wiggins 5 and Brunson 4 during the period, as the Lynx overall hit 12-of-22 shots. Brunson and Anosike snared 9 boards during the 3rd, and 4 different players had assists.
Almost lost in the shuffle are the Lynx' 2 most reliable scorers in the early going, Charde Houston and Rashanda McCants, so this is shaping up to be a fiendishly deep team that will allow Reeves to keep fresh horses on the court and to find and exploit the right match-ups depending on the opponent.
Also, almost lost in the shuffle, unlikely as that may seem: Lindsay Whalen. Lindsay played 26 minutes and had 11 points, 5 assists, 6 boards and just 1 turnover. She hit just 1-of-5 FG but made all 9 FT.
The starting lineup, BTW, was Anosike-Brunson-Maiga-Ba-Whalen-McCants. There would seem to be a couple of placeholders there, so longer term the lineup is what you once thought it would be: Anosike-Brunson-Augustus-Whalen-Wiggins. Houston has to get some minutes, and Wright has to play especially in light of the fact that Wiggins is the #2 at #1. Maiga-Ba, McCants and Hollingsworth add depth. That still looks like a competitive lineup, which makes today's 2-and-5 record, well, it's still disappointing. I thought they'd be at least 3-4 at this point. But considering the roster issues, you gotta stay patient, and last night makes staying patient a little bit more palatable.