Arlington, TX -- On a day where the Dallas Wings honored a trailblazer for the game of women’s basketball Nancy Lieberman, the Minnesota Lynx showed why they are the evolution of the WNBA.
Sylvia Fowles led all scorers with 30 points, and the Lynx (9-0) led for 39 of the 40 minutes in the game, maintaining their status as the only unbeaten team in the league as the beat the Dallas Wings (4-6) 91-74 at College Park Center in Arlington on Sunday.
Minnesota wasted no time letting Dallas know who was boss, getting an early three-pointer from Maya Moore. Within a matter of minutes, they were up 8-3, but Dallas gave no evidence of giving up. Led by Karima Christmas-Kelly, the Wings grabbed an early 19-16 lead with 2:14 to go in the first quarter, ending the first quarter up 21-20.
The first minutes of the second quarter was a game of cat-and-mouse, with both teams trading off leads. A Jia Perkins pull-up jumper put Minnesota up 28-25, and from there, the Lynx never looked back. An 11-4 run helped Minnesota to secure the lead, but Dallas put a scare in them, with Christmas-Kelly making all three free throws at the end of the half to close the Lynx lead to 50-43.
Fowles, who set a season-high for point scored, felt like Minnesota started off well despite Dallas keeping close throughout the half.
“I think we started off the way we wanted to. We had a couple of things we wanted to hold Dallas to, and I think we achieved those goals as a group, so we’re proud about that. Definitely been cautious about what Dallas is about, they like to get to the paint, get to the free throw line. So, hopefully, we can clean that up next time we see them,” Fowles said.
The halftime show saw the Dallas Wings honoring Lieberman for her early contributions to the WNBA and the Dallas community. Lieberman, currently an assistant coach for the NBA’s Sacramento Kings, was the star of Dallas’ only professional women’s team before the Wings, the Dallas Diamonds of the WABL in the early 1980’s.
Sylvia Fowles opened the third quarter for Minnesota with six straight points, and Renee Montgomery chipped in with a key three to give them a 63-49 lead. Allisha Gray and Skylar Diggins-Smith began to chip away at the lead for Dallas, outscoring Minnesota the rest of the quarter 10-8. However, Lindsay Whalen made a bank shot with 1.3 seconds left in the quarter to put Minnesota up 71-59.
Dallas started the quarter off with a pair of Saniya Chong free throws, part of the 10 points in the quarter for the rookie from UConn. Minnesota, however, maintained a comfortable lead the remainder of the way, building as much as a 17-point lead through the quarter. Rookie Alexis Jones, a product of nearby Baylor, made the final basket to seal the deal and Minnesota’s nine-game win streak.
Besides Fowles, Rebekkah Brunson (13) and Maya Moore (23) scored in double-digits for the Lynx. Moore, who scored a season-high for points on her birthday, was pretty ecstatic about getting their league-leading ninth win.
“It’s good. Anytime I can play well for my team, it feels good. It was just a really great way to celebrate my birthday, and getting my jersey number on my birthday (23) is pretty special,” Moore said.
Despite the score, four players (Chong - 10, Diggins-Smith - 11, Gray - 14 and Christmas-Kelly with 21) scored in double figures for Dallas, who has shown a lot of fight despite their fairly young roster (they played with four rookies to end the game).
Dallas head coach Fred Williams was positive, but honest about the prospects of his team when asked about their effort against the best team in the league.
“I felt that we competed tonight. I thought that we had a lot of shot selections that didn’t go down for us. Minnesota kind of forced us to take some outside three’s. With us being the number-one team for getting to the free throw line, they kind of stepped away from us and made us pull up the jumpers, and we fell short of that tonight.”
Dallas will get a chance to right the ship on Tuesday when they go to Los Angeles to face the defending champion Sparks -- who Dallas upset on Friday night.
As for Minnesota, they’ll take their winning streak home, where they don’t play again until June 17 when they host the struggling Connecticut Sun.