Saturday, September 8, 2012

An Improbable Win for the Lynx, Who Eye Homecourt Advantage

The Minnesota Lynx roared back from a 25 point deficit late in the 1st half to defeat the Atlanta Dream in a rematch of last year's WNBA finals. The Lynx outscored Atlanta 6-2 to close out the 1st half and to begin getting back in the game.

But the heavy lifting came in the 3rd quarter, and much of it by Rebekah Brunson who scored 10 points in the period on just 2-of-6 FG and 6-of-8 FT, while adding 8 boards, 4 on each end of the floor, a block and a tie up leading to a change of possession.

Maya Moore added 8 points including 2 FT at 1:11 that got the margin into the single digits going into the 4th quarter.

Moore then hit a pull-up jumper at 5:47 of the 4th to get the Lynx within 4, and 17 seconds later blocked an Atlanta shot, leading to a transition 3 by Seimone Augustus on an assist by Candace Wiggins. Suddenly it was a 1 point margin. A minute later Moore hit a 3 on a assist by Taj McWilliams-Franklin to tie it up. Moore scored 2 more buckets, then assisted on a Taj bucket with 30 seconds remaining to tie it up once again. Taj followed with a block to force OT.

In the 1st OT Atlanta needed a driving layup by Angel McCoughtry at 0:00.3 tie force the 2nd OT. In the 2nd OT the Lynx hit 5-of-7 while the Dream hit just 2-of-6 with 3 turnovers. Still it was only a Taj bucket from Lindsay Whalen at 42 seconds that put the Lynx ahead for good.

The Lynx out-shot Atlanta 43-40 percent and 31-24 on the 3, and out-scored the Dream from the line 26-14. But the Lynx lost the possession game with 19 turnovers to 13 for Atlanta, and 17 offensive boards to 18 for the Dream.

Still the Lynx won the game on the inside as Moore and Brunson combined for 38 points and 30 boards. But Atlanta guards McCoughtry and Lindsay Harding outscored Seimone and Lindsay from the backcourt 53-27. In a statistical oddity, each of the Lynx' 5 starters shot the ball 13 times from the floor.

The Lynx move to 23-4, 3 games ahead overall and 4 within the division in the battle for homecourt in the playoffs. But 6 of the Lynx' final 7 games are on the road including 2 at San Antonio and 1 at L.A. A 3-4 finish would not be a surprise. San Antone gets 6 of 8 at home with road games only at lowly Seattle and Tulsa (18-35 between them), while L.A. get 4 of 6 (and all of its last 4 games) at home with an eastern swing to Washington and New York (a combined 16-40). San Antone could easily go 7-1 and L.A. 6-0 down the stretch.

If that happened:

Minnesota 3-4 finishes 26-8
San Antone 7-1/23-11
L.A. 6-0/25-9

Connecticut, meanwhile, gets 4 of 7 at home, but lost to Phoenix at home last night to drop to 20-8. A 5-1 finish is not unlikely, which gets 'em to 25-9.

So I still think the Lynx will get home court throughout the playoffs, despite a tough finish to the regular season. But it could be a close call.

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