Everybody said (well, Cheryl Reeve said it, and I said it in my most recent posts) that the Lynx needed to achieve better balance--they needed to get more production inside and from their bench--if they were to defeat the San Antonio Silver Stars in the 3rd and final game of their playoff series. And the Lynx did that in spades Tuesday night.
Even as San Antone busted out to a 12-4 lead at about the 6 minute mark, the Lynx were mostly intent on getting Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Rebekah Brunson and Maya Moore involved in the offense. And they didn't panic despite the Stars' quick start. By the time the Lynx had tied it up at 12-all at about the 4 minute mark the scoring was Brunson 6 and Taj 6.
Ten minutes later, with 4 minutes remaining in the half, it was 40-25 and the Lynx were on one of their patented runs at 36-13. By half-time the Stars had clawed their way back to 44-37, but the Lynx had vastly more balanced scoring than in recent games--Seimone Augustus had 12, Maya Moore 9, Brunson and Taj 8 and Jessica Adair 7. That's 23 points in one half from their inside players, more than they scored in the 1st 2 full games of this series, and that's also a turnaround of 10 points from Sunday's half-time score down in San Antone. Lindsay Whalen, meanwhile, hadn't scored.
But the best was yet to come as the Lynx won the 3rd quarter 22-20 and the 4th 19-11 for the final score of 85-67.
So I thought the Lynx needed more scoring inside--they got it, and they won. One for me. On the other hand, I thought the Lynx would need a better performance from their bench. And, yes, they got it, but by a very slim margin, and the bottom line is that the Stars' bench out-scored the Lynx' 24-14 and yet the Lynx won going away.
Third, I thought the Lynx would have to win the possession game and they did that. Two for me. The Lynx got off 65 FG attempts to San Antonio's 55. The offensive boards were 12-3 Minnesota. The edge on turnovers was small but still to the Lynx' advantage, 16-14.
Finally, I said that Whalen would have to win the match-up at point guard with fellow veteran Becky Hammon. Well, it didn't happen and yet the Lynx won. Hammon scored 15 points with 5 assists, 3 steals and a block. Whalen scored just 4 points and added 4 steals. The turnovers were 4 for Hammon and 2 for Whay.
When all is said and done, the Stars gave the Lynx what they needed--a tough playoff experience, one that should prove invaluable as the playoffs progress. The Stars also gave the Phoenix Mercury an invaluable lesson in how to beat the Lynx, as if the Mercury don't already know. The 3-point shot certainly was a weapon that the Stars used to hurt the Lynx badly, and it was a weapon that the Mercury used to beat up on the Lynx at times during the regular season. So one question for the semi-final series is, Can the Lynx stop Phoenix' multi-talented scorers, especially WNBA scoring champion Diana Taurasi, especially when they let it fly from beyond the 3-point line?
But there's time enough to worry about that. Right now, let's just say the the Lynx came up with an inspired performance, keyed by a game plan that they probably hadn't executed in a month. That they DID execute it to near perfection under pressure is quite an achievement.