Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lynx "Statement" Comes Early

If the Minnesota Lynx were going to become WNBA title contenders, as many anticipated, then sooner or later there would be a "statement" game in which they would declare themselves as such. Well, not that soon!

But they wasted no time at all, humbling the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm, in Seattle no less, in the 3rd game of the year for each team. The Lynx ran out to an astonishing 50-24 half-time lead and stretched it to 58-30 before the Storm came, er, storming back to within 71-62 at 1:46 and 74-67 at :41. The Storm outscored the Lynx 35-17 in the 4th quarter, but it wasn't enough and the Lynx had made their statement, 81-74.

Then they avoided a let-down at home against 1-4 Atlanta, pulling away from a 39-all half-time tie to win 96-85.

This Week

They'll have to avoid a let-down twice this week and in the WNBA's quirky scheduling they'll have to do so today at Atlanta and next Friday again at Seattle. Beating Atlanta twice in a row, back-to-back, home-and-home sounds tough enough. But Seattle again? In Seattle? The Storm will have to be bigger favorites than they were last week.

Last Week

The Lynx shocked the world, scoring 22 points at Seattle before the Storm got on the scoreboard. Lynx fans were doubly shocked, and have continually been shocked, to see that on this star-studded roster Rebekah Brunson is the obvious team MVP so far. She scored 9 of those 22 points and pulled down 6 boards, 3 on each end of the court, in the first 7 minutes. By half-time she had 18 points and 8 boards, Lindsay Whalen had 7 and 8 assists and Seimone Augustus had 7 points.

The 3rd quarter was about even and the 4th proved to be much more exciting than the Lynx would have preferred. But beating the Storm in Seattle by any score was, well, a "statment," so we'll leave it at that.

Then came the Dream, but it was the Lynx who looked to be in a dream, trailing by as many as 6 in the 1st quarter and 5 in the 2nd. Atlanta still led 43-41 at 8:22 of the 3rd when the Lynx took charge with a 13-0 run. Atlanta cut the lead to 2 late in the 3rd and the Lynx ran off 9 more unanswered points. The, finally, with the Lynx up 88-82 at 1:13, a 6-0 run put it away.

The 3 2nd half spurts added up to a 28-0 edge. During those 3 runs, 7 Lynx scored and each of the 7 contributed at least 1 assist, rebound or steal. Augustus scored 8 with 2 boards, Brunson 7 with a board and a steal, Whalen 5 with a steal. In fact, it was back-to-back-to-back steals by Maya Moore, Brunson and Whalen that kicked off the 1st and most crucial of the 3 runs.

The Lynx shot over 50 percent in both games (though as of yet they appear to be a poor 3-point shooting team [1-for-10 against Atlanta]), but lost the possession game both times. Seattle had both more offensive boards (11-5) and fewer turnovers (11-13). Atlanta had an alarming 15 offensive boards which helped offset their 18 turnovers.

So as of today, it's a little early to count one's chickens--statement or no. Winning at Atlanta is not a given and winning at Seattle again seems highly improbable. Still it's probably time to revise (upward) my previous estimates of Lynx victories--10 by the end of July and 21 at the end of the season.

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