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Breakdown: Minnesota’s newfound energy was Dream’s nightmare

Minnesota went on a 23-2 run in the fourth quarter against Atlanta Thursday night. The Lynx held the Dream to only a couple of free throws in the final stanza.

David Sherman - NBAE/Getty Images

St. Paul, MN — Slow and sloppy first three quarters, quick and focused the fourth? That’s one way to win a game. Minnesota came out looking tired Thursday night to take on the Atlanta Dream in their second game of the series. Atlanta stepped on the court, ready for a rematch and immediately went on a 6-0 run.

Minnesota’s Maya Moore ended the early frustration soon after, hitting a quick jumper to get the first points of the night. Moore continued to be the fire that ignited some momentum for Minnesota in the first quarter, keeping the game close.

Overall, it was a very complacent start for both teams, the first three quarters showed one turnover after another. Both squads were short shooting from the perimeter, consistently hitting the front of the rim or simply air-balling the shot completely.

“I think throughout the first three quarters we were very stagnant, and before I could even get it out of my mouth and voice it to the coach, she already knew what was going on,” the Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles said.

“She pretty much just gave us a green light, she said don’t run the plays, just go out there and play freely. I think when we play like that we are at our best when we don’t have to overthink anything.”

The last seven points of the half were all free throws for the Lynx, which helped them pull ahead of the Dream, going into halftime up by five, 35-30.

But they weren’t out of the battle yet, early in the third quarter Atlanta went on another 6-0 run, quickly whittling the halftime deficit. The Dream’s defense was nothing to joke about, every time a Lynx player drove to the basket, Atlanta defenders would easily squander the attempt, and took control of the ball.

Minnesota continued to have difficulty scoring, while the Dream was focused and fluid in their point production. They outscored Minnesota 2-1 in the third quarter, putting up 22 points to the Lynx 11.

It was not looking good for Minnesota moving into the final quarter. But that has never stopped this team before, when the fourth quarter began, fans were on their feet cheering their hearts out and believing in their beloved squad. The Lynx looked like a completely different team, snatching quick steals and hitting everything they put up.

“But that was hard work, what they just did. Because we got down six I think it was and Atlanta was feeling good and we had to pick ourselves up a little bit. It wasn’t great what was going on, but then we got energized and our crowd got into it,” Minnesota Head Coach Cheryl Reeve said.

All of sudden, Atlanta could not hit an open shot or they would get blocked driving inside the lane, it seemed as if the roles had reversed between the two teams. The Dream went flat, they could do nothing right, and unfortunately for them, the fourth quarter had the opposite effect for Minnesota —they could simply do no wrong.

The Lynx turned up their aggression notch to a whole new level that had been untouched all game until the final 10 minutes of play. Minnesota focused on being more active on the defensive front, refusing any open shots and leaving no openings for Atlanta to drive.

With Lindsay Whalen suffering a left-hand injury in the third quarter and out for the remainder of the game, Renee Montgomery had to step up, and the speedy guard did just that. From pick-pocketed steals which led to fast break lay-ups, to sneak-attack passes inside to Fowles, Montgomery was on a mission to get a victory, along with the entire Minnesota squad.

The Lynx went on a 23-2 run in the fourth quarter, holding the Dream to a couple of free throws. They ended the game defeating Atlanta 69-54, holding their heads high for a job well done.

“I’ve been in basketball a long time and this was something new to see, to where a team only scores 2 points. A little bit you have to credit their defense because what it is, is they just clog that paint, but a lot of it is our inability to settle down and hit an open shot,” Atlanta Head Coach Michael Cooper said after the game.

“We have the mentality that we can fight through any adversity so that’s kind of how we took it, we’re going to keep on working through whatever comes our way,” Montgomery said of the team’s fourth quarter triumph.

Minnesota proved once again that taking them down is not going to be an easy feat. Even when the odds are against them, they adjust their game to make it work and remain successfully on top of the WNBA.