Lynx back over .500 with victory
MINNEAPOLIS — With Karima Christmas-Kelly out for the season, Damiris Dantas still unable to play and just ten players available — including new acquisitions Asia Taylor and Kenisha Bell — every Minnesota Lynx fan wondered how the team would come out in Tuesday’s game against the last-place Atlanta Dream (2-9).
The game didn’t start well for Minnesota, falling into an early 6-0 hole and forcing Cheryl Reeve to call a timeout early. From there, the Lynx relied on outside shooting and second-chance points to pull out the victory, improving to 7-6 with the 85-68 win. Here are a few takeaways from Tuesday’s win ahead of Minnesota’s big matchup against Connecticut (9-4) on July 6.
Trouble? There’s a Syl(ution) for that
Sylvia Fowles continues to be Minnesota’s primary scorer. Averaging 14.3 points per game into Tuesday’s victory, Fowles scored 16 points to go along with five rebounds. While she has been a key part of the Lynx success since her arrival from Chicago in 2015, her contributions are even more important this season with the absence of Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson. Fowles played a majority of the game in foul trouble, playing smart on defense in the second half while continuing to show her presence on the offensive end. Fowles caught no-look passes from Odyssey Sims and Danielle Robinson and made many of her baskets look routine in the first half. Fowles didn’t have the best second half and continued to get frustrated with the officials for calls that went against her. With 3:35 left in the game, Fowles picked up a technical foul for arguing a call.
“I feel like I go out there and get the silliest calls just from breathing on people,” Fowles said after the game.
Fowles was a plus-9 in the contest, making eight of her 12 shots in just 22:04 of playing time, much lower than her season average.
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Two-headed monster at guard
Robinson and Sims continued to lead Minnesota at the guard position with much of their time playing on the court together, alternating between the point and shooting guard positions. Sims led the duo in minutes, playing 34:36 of the possible 40 minutes and scoring 16 points to go along with eight assists. Sims took 18 shots in the victory, making seven, including one from 3-point range and was a plus-19 to lead all players.
Robinson played just over 28 minutes, scoring eight points while adding seven assists and five rebounds. Reeve was impressed with both players, talking specifically about the decisions Robinson made.
“I thought Danielle’s playcalling was really good and I told her that her floor game was exceptional,” Reeve said. “Odyssey recognized that taking on one on three wasn’t the best thing for our team. She made the recognition that we had opportunities to pass out to really good players and she started finding them.”
Talbot catches fire from downtown
Averaging just 2.4 points per game through the first 12 games of the season, Stephanie Talbot caught fire for Minnesota, making five of her nine shots from beyond the arc and leading all scorers with 24 points. Talbot’s range from outside is something the Lynx have been missing with Dantas injured the last two games and Cecilia Zandalasini playing overseas for Italy. Many of Talbot’s shots came in the second half to keep the Lynx lead over 15 and help Minnesota coast to the team’s seventh win of the season.
“I think it’s nice to have coaches and teammates to encourage you to let it fly whenever you are open,” Talbot said. “I think having that in the back of your mind makes you relax. It makes you more comfortable knowing that they support you.”
Fowles and Reeve were quick to talk about Talbot’s performance after Tuesday’s victory, impressed with the opportunity she has been given in the past two games since Dantas has been out.
“She’s been waiting for this moment,” Fowles said with a smile. “We’ve been talking to her a lot about just going out there and playing her game. At halftime we’re like just go out and shoot and if you miss we will be there to get the rebound. She went out there and she lit it up for us.”
Reeve is excited for Talbot to see the tape of the first half where she said Talbot is going to notice how open she was earlier in the game. Talbot’s 24 points are a career high, surpassing an 18-point performance in 2018. She also scored double figures in back-to-back games for the first time of her career.
“There were times where we would pass it to her when she was open, and we would pass it to her, and she didn’t shoot it,” Reeve said. “The mindset sometimes is if you miss one, you go ‘well I better pass the next one’, but we told her every single time you’re open, you shoot it. I think she’s getting used to that.”
Rebounds lead to victory, especially for Minnesota
Cheryl Reeve seems to have a stat for everything. Still, the stat that she mentioned in the post-game press conference about the Lynx rebounding was shocking. Since 2011, the Lynx are 76-4 when having a plus-10 differential in rebounds. Tuesday night, the Lynx pulled in 38 rebounds to Atlanta’s 26. Napheesa Collier led the team with 11 rebounds.
“I mean those are some really, really impressive numbers,” Reeve said. “Excellent.”
The other player with an impressive night on the boards was Alaina Coates. After a quiet game in the loss to the Wings earlier this week, Coates played 18 minutes for Minnesota, scoring 10 points in addition to nine rebounds. She took six shots, making four of them and played well on both ends of the floor.
- Cheryl Reeve mentioned a hope to have Dantas back right around the All-Star Break, but did admit that she doesn’t want to put a concrete timetable on her return. Reeve added that the team had a practice last Saturday which didn’t go well and that’s what caused the team to re-evaluate Dantas.
“Obviously, we don’t want to rush it,” Reeve said. “I think that’s really important.”
- Cecilia Zandalasini’s Italy team was eliminated from FIBA’s EuroBasket 2019 by Russia early Tuesday, allowing her the opportunity to re-join the Lynx. Zandalasini’s would continue to add depth to the Lynx team that desperately needs it and can add another outside shooter to go alongside Talbot and Dantas if she returns. The Lynx need more depth at forward, and bringing Zandalasini would force the Lynx to drop a player on the current roster.
- Also playing in EuroBasket 2019, Temi Fagbenle scored 29 points to help Great Britain advance to the quarterfinals. Fagbenle is more of a sure thing to return to Minnesota once the tournament is done because of her inside presence. Right now, her focus continues to be overseas where Great Britain takes on Hungary on July 4.
- New additions Asia Taylor and Kenisha Bell played a combined four minutes in the Lynx victory, with Taylor taking one shot and Bell not attempting a field goal. Shao Ting saw an increase in minutes, playing 10:49 and scoring two points. She also had a fantastic pass inside to Coates for an assist in the first half.
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