Takeaways: Balanced attack gives Lynx Game 1 win over Mystics

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 12: Seimone Augustus
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 12: Seimone Augustus /

The Lynx hadn’t played a game in nine days. During that rest, their Tuesday night opponent had already rolled through Dallas and New York in the first two rounds of the WNBA playoffs. How the veteran Lynx would respond to a talented Mystics team with momentum would remain to be seen. Would they be trying to shake off any rust while reintegrating Lindsay Whalen into the starting lineup?

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It didn’t take the Lynx long to answer this question in Game 1 of the Semifinals on Tuesday night, a 101-81 win for Minnesota.

Washington carried a meager 14-13 lead with 4:01 to play in the first quarter. Rebekkah Brunson and others missed a couple of easy baskets early that allowed the Mystics to hang around. From there, the Lynx would go on a 13-4 run to close out the quarter, taking an 8-point lead into the second frame.

Trailing 26-18, the Mystics found a way to cut the deficit to 30-27 early in the second quarter. That is until a Maya Moore 3-pointer pushed the lead back to six—their largest since an 11-point advantage earlier.

And the Lynx never looked back after that. They led 53-38 and thanks to a 31-point third quarter, led by 18 heading into the fourth. In the end, the Lynx enjoyed a comfortable 20-point victory at Williams Arena. Here’s what we learned:

A 3-point contest the Mystics couldn’t handle

Personnel-wise, Washington has the talent to hit 3-pointers.  Elena Delle Donne, Kristi Toliver, and Emma Meeseman are all exceptional floor spacers. Delle Donne and Toliver are career 38.2 and 39.3 percent 3-point shooters, respectively.  Even Meeseman was better than a 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc in her two previous seasons.

This somehow hasn’t translated to success this season. The Mystics were the third-worst regular season 3-point shooting team, in part because of Toliver’s down year. But as Toliver has rediscovered her shot in the postseason, Meeseman’s has gone missing, shooting 3-of-12 from deep in three games. Sharpshooter Ivory Latta has compensated for this by hitting 44.4 percent of her 3’s in the playoffs.

As a team, the Mystics shot well, hitting 9-of-21 3-point attempts for 42.8 percent. Yet, challenging the second-best regular season shooting team to a shootout is a risky proposition. Maya Moore (3-for-4), Seimone Augustus (2-for-3), Renee Montgomery (4-for-5), and Jia Perkins (2-3) bombarded the Mystics from beyond the arc. The Lynx drilled 70.6 percent of their 17 3-point attempts.

Are the Lynx going to sustain that production for the rest of the series? It’s highly unlikely. However, it’s clear that trying to outshoot the Lynx is risky even with the shooting talent on the Mystics.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – AUGUST 30: Sylvia Fowles /

Sylvia Fowles is a problem for Washington

This may seem obvious but it was especially true last night. Fowles is having a fantastic season as an MVP candidate averaging a double-double. Her strong play carried into Game 1 against a big Mystics frontcourt. In 31 minutes, Fowles posted 18 points and seven rebounds on 8-for-13 shooting. Krystal Thomas and Meeseman each have the length to disrupt her at 6’5

Krystal Thomas and Meeseman each have the length to disrupt her at 6’5 but don’t have enough size when either player goes to the bench. The 6’3, 191-pound Tianna Hawkins often defended Fowles when she went to the bench but she gives up nearly three inches and 20 pounds in that matchup. Hawkins was a -15 in 20 minutes of playing time.

Putting Delle Donne inside likely isn’t a better solution. She has the length but do you want your star wing banging inside against more physical players when she’s struggled with injuries this season? Probably not.

This may be where the Lynx have an ultimate advantage in this series. If the Mystics can’t stagger the rests for Thomas and Meeseman, Fowles and even Rebekkah Brunson will thrive down low. The Mystics’ starters accounted for 18 of their 27 team rebounds. The Lynx finished with 31 rebounds with 12 coming from the bench.

Washington’s inability to slow the Lynx inside allowed them to comfortably control the game from the second quarter on.

A balanced attack

It’s difficult to pick one standout player from a team that shoots nearly 60 percent from the field, forces 11 turnovers, and wins the rebounding battle. What the Lynx did to the Mystics was a true team effort and an assertion of their will on a quality opponent. As well as the Mystics played, the Lynx brought it up another level.

Lindsay Whalen returned to the starting lineup but was eased back by playing just 16 minutes and taking two shots. A big part of that was the play of Renee Montgomery. Montgomery bombed the Mystics from behind the line, hitting 4-of-5 shots, and getting into the lane. In addition, she finished with three assists and no fouls or turnovers in 20 minutes of play.

Veteran Seimone Augustus was a major factor on the perimeter. Her efficient 24 points, five rebounds and three assists made the lives of her teammates much easier.

Inside, Fowles 18 points and seven rebounds, including three offensive, ensured the Lynx were thriving from every area of the floor.

To think that you can get this far without mentioning Moore’s 14 points, four rebounds, and four assists on 5-for-8 shooting is incredible. The former MVP was able to be a factor without having a defense honed in on her every second she was on the court because of her teammates’ strong play. Should everyone continue playing at a high level, double teams may be a rare sight.

It turns out that a week off was just want the Lynx needed. They came out with good energy, got on a roll, and never looked back. The Mystics played well, so they can’t expect to coast through the rest of the series but Game 1 was an assertion of Minnesota’s dominance.