Late turnovers doom Lynx
MINNEAPOLIS – After a strong start to the season, the Minnesota Lynx were at the precipice of falling to .500 as they were set to play the visiting Connecticut Sun. The Sun were considered the league’s best team entering the game but the Lynx stayed with them throughout the visitor’s 85-81 victory.
The Sun’s frontcourt Hydra of Jonquel Jones, Alyssa Thomas and Shekinna Stricklen each scored 16 points on a combined 18-for-28 shooting. Jones, in particular, was a nightmare for the Lynx’s frontcourt inside or taking larger defenders off of the dribble. Her 12 rebounds were another boost to Connecticut.
Minnesota did its best to counter Connecticut’s size. In addition to Damiris Dantas, the Lynx paired Sylvia Fowles with Alaina Coates and Karima Christmas-Kelly match their size. Coates played well despite averaging 4.8 minutes per game up to Friday night. She played a total of seven minutes and Cheryl Reeve says that Coates will continue to see her minutes increase due to Jessica Shepard’s injury.
Disaster nearly struck in the first half when Dantas went down with ankle injury, but trainers helped her to the bench where she iced and elevated her ankle. A few minutes later, Dantas walked on the ankle under her own power and returned to the game. Losing Dantas after already losing Shepard for the season would have been devastating. Dantas does a little bit of everything for the Lynx without commanding a ton of touches.
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While the Sun brutalized the Lynx inside, Odyssey Sims worked her magic on the perimeter. Sims posted an efficient 25 points, six rebounds, and three assists to lead the Lynx. Her performance took the pressure off of Fowles, who totaled 17 points and nine rebounds in the game. Coach Reeve said after the game that she wishes Sims could have been rewarded for her strong performance.
Lynx limit turnovers, but untimely turnovers prove costly
Unfortunately, the Lynx were at times their own worst enemy. You cannot have too many mistakes when you’re facing the best team in the league. While the Lynx, the league’s most turnover-prone team, only committed nine turnovers, it was the timing of them.
Of the Lynx’s nine turnovers, five of them came in the fourth quarter. Trailing just 85-81 with about a minute to play, Danielle Robinson drove from the perimeter and lost control of the ball to the Sun. That turnover was the dagger in the Lynx’s comeback hopes.
A lot of credit needs to be given to the Sun for their defense in the fourth quarter. The Sun forced the Lynx to shoot 5-of-14 in addition to forcing those five turnovers in the final frame. When asked after the game, Reeve credited the Sun’s defensive effort and also noted the possibility of the inexperience of the team’s younger players as a factor.
There’s no shame in losing to a team like the Sun after going punch-for-punch with them for 40 minutes. However, the Lynx can see how one or two possessions can swing the outcome of a game. Friday’s game was one of the few times this season they successfully limited their turnovers but the turnovers they committed were often ill-timed.
Things don’t get any easier for the Lynx as the Las Vegas Aces come to town on Sunday.
Napheesa Collier rebounds from New York performance
Coming off her 1-for-7 shooting night in Westchester, where she didn’t make a single shot attempt in the second half, you knew Collier was going to turn out a better performance back home. Collier played well and affected the game in a number of ways.
If you only looked at the box score, you might think she struggled shooting the ball. Yet, she was 3-for-6 from the field before that fourth quarter hit in which no one could make a shot. Looking past the 10 points on nine shots, Collier added four rebounds, three assists, and two steals. She also added smart and solid defense.
There were times on offense it seemed as if she was too unselfish or deferential when she caught the ball on the perimeter in isolation. By that, it seemed as if she was waiting for a cut that never came instead of attacking the basket. When she would attack, she used her skill and athleticism to work her way to the rim.
Coach Reeve said after the game that she didn’t have a problem with her decision making in these situations and that Collier isn’t afraid to shoot. She added that if there is a time Collier can get frustrated, it’s when she’s missing shots from the outside. In general, Reeve said she only wants her players shooting when they want to shoot and not forcing shots they don’t want to take.
Rachel Banham’s wreaks havoc in her homecoming
Having a pure scorer like Rachel Banham off the bench is an embarrassment of riches for a team like the Sun. Banham was the Big Ten’s all-time leading scorer when she left for the WNBA and set many other records in her time at the University of Minnesota. It turns out she still enjoys getting buckets in Minneapolis.
Banham scored half of her 10 points in the fourth quarter, including a huge 3-pointer to put the Sun up 79-70 with 5:54 left to play. The Lynx would finish the game on an 11-6 rally but it was Banham’s bench contributions that helped give the Sun an edge.
Overall, Banham scored 10 points on 50 percent shooting, while grabbing three rebounds and dishing two assists. That’s pretty good for just 15 minutes of gameplay.
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