MINNEAPOLIS, MN -- With about five minutes left to go in Thursday night’s Game 2 semifinal between the Washington Mystics and Minnesota Lynx, The Mystics led by two points, 75-73.
Then, Lindsay Whalen came in.
In those last 4:45, Whalen was undoubtedly the difference maker, helping Minnesota go on a 20-8 run en route to a 93-83 victory.
“That was two teams slugging it out for 40 minutes is what it was,” Whalen said. “That’s what it’s all about. We know we have more work to do, but tonight we are going to enjoy the win.”
Whalen ended the night with nine points and a game-high seven assists. Eight of those points came during Minnesota’s final run.
It’s hard to see in the box score all that Whalen did during those final minutes of the contest, but what was blatantly obvious was the way with which she set the tone.
With 3:35 to go, Whalen’s driving layup gave the Lynx a five-point lead. Two minutes later, Whalen found Maya Moore for a clutch three-pointer that gave the Lynx a seven-point lead.
Within a minute-long timespan, she hit two free throws and two layups to make sure the game stayed fully out of Washington’s grasp, by helping her team build a 10-point lead.
When Whalen came into the game, she completely shifted the momentum by putting herself and her teammates in a position to be successful.
“Lindsay was unbelievable in the minutes that she played,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said.
“She left it all out there. She found a way to will our team. Just all those hustle plays. Offensively, she really helped us. She was just bringing it tonight. It was vintage Lindsay Whalen and it was really cool that it happened at the Barn.”
But while Whalen was incredibly impressive, part of what makes the Lynx so successful is their team brand of basketball.
In that case, it’s no wonder that they had 27 assists as a team while limiting Washington to just 16. They also were more efficient on offense, shooting 50.7 percent from the field, compared to the Mystics 41.1 percent.
And it’s incredibly fitting that on the day she was named the 2017 WNBA MVP, Sylvia Fowles notched another clutch performance, with 25 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
The Lynx actually got out to a slow start in the first quarter, and found themselves down by 10 points, 29-19, after shooting just 7-of-17 from the field during the first ten minutes.
In the second quarter, however, it appeared as if Washington began to have defensive lapses, which led to Fowles being able to get into a groove by attacking the rim.
Fowles ended up scoring 10 points in the quarter, and while the Lynx were still down by two, that quarter no doubt began to right the ship for Minnesota. They outscored the Mystics 26-18 in the frame, and shot a whopping 71 percent from the floor on 12-of-17 shooting.
Moore ended up with 11 points in the fourth quarter alone, and 22 for the night. Seimone Augustus chipped in 15 points of her own and six assists, while Rebekkah Brunson rounded out Lynx players in double-digits with a double-double performance of 11 points and 10 rebounds.
With the win, the Lynx will have a chance to close out their semifinals series on Sunday in Washington, D.C.