Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lynx Turning It Around?

I don't know how good of an opponent the Phoenix Mercury are. They're not a very good defensive team, and they're not deep. They've given up 91 points per game, and gave up 92 to the Lynx who had scored 58 in their previous outing. And their bench contributed 43 minutes and 9 points versus the Lynx' 69 and 51.

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.

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