By Jen Halvorson
St. Paul, MN — With Brittney Griner injured and Diana Taurasi resting, the Phoenix Mercury had little depth at center and around the perimeter. Couple that with a constant paint presence from Minnesota Lynx All-Star center Sylvia Fowles and a deep bench depth and it’s a recipe for a rough night.
The Lynx dominated the boards and played aggressive defense inside, preventing easy scoring for the Mercury and turnovers throughout the first quarter.
Phoenix drove the lane and drew fouls to stay in the game. They turned up the heat by hitting three-pointers and knocking down jumpers each possession—creating a stir as the Lynx defense started to waver with time running out in the half.
“We were successful in the first half by being the aggressor,” said Sandy Brondello, the Mercury’s head coach.
The dynamic guard duo of Danielle Robinson and Yvonne Turner accounted for half of Phoenix’s points at the end of the second quarter. Robinson shot perfect from the field for 10 points, and Turner shot 75 percent from behind the arc to total 11.
Minnesota made careless mistakes to end the first half, causing turnovers and hurried shots that left the Lynx reeling and down by four.
“As a coaching staff, we’ll have to eat what happened in the first half,” said Cheryl Reeve, Lynx head coach, “because I think that it was probably our schemes that made it a little bit tougher for us. Like I said, we cleaned it up at halftime.”
Minnesota started the second half looking focused, and immediately closed the halftime deficit with a few fast points and forced turnovers. This trend continued throughout the third quarter with an 18-0 Lynx run.
“There’s a healthy dislike for our team, not as people, but they just get tired of losing and so their hunger raises to a level that if we don’t match it, then you’re in a situation where you’re going to be down in a game,” Minnesota’s head coach Cheryl Reeve said.
“You’ll be in a hornet’s nest.”
With usual Lynx star Maya Moore making unusual mistakes, Minnesota guards Renee Montgomery and Jia Perkins showed off their quick agility talents with steals, fast breaks and quick jumpers contributing to a combined total of 23 points.
“I think that we just turned it up defensively and played out of our defense,” Perkins said. “Then we got some stops and when they weren’t scoring, we went on our little run. We had good shots and we were able to hit them.”
Fowles’ inside-game consistency—while double-teamed—helped maintain the Lynx’s initial lead in the second half along with the team’s hard-working defense that kept them going to the finish.
She finished the game with 18 points and five rebounds.
“Our defense is what gets us going,” Fowles said. “We know our offense, and not too many teams can stop us from running anything, so (it’s) just making sure we have a good enough defense to stop them.”
Fowles’ play and Minnesota’s epic pull away ensured Phoenix could not recover, sealing the deal on a contested win, 81-66. The Lynx are now two games ahead of the Los Angeles Sparks in the Western Conference and sit atop the WNBA — furthering the best start to a season in the franchise’s history.