St. Paul, MN — The word mercy is not in the Minnesota Lynx vocabulary, which they made very clear Sunday night when they decided to make the Washington Mystics their prime example of just how merciless they can be.
“We wanted to send a message and set a tone, for ourselves and whoever else is watching going into the postseason,” said Minnesota’s Maya Moore.
That tone wasn’t set immediately by the Lynx as Washington started the game with quick baskets by Elena Delle Donne who essentially was knocking down every shot she took. After her small scoring spree though, Minnesota was engaged as the energy in the building did a complete 180-degree turn.
Moore pick-pocketed Delle Donne and immediately raced down the court for the easy two. Her defense ignited her team to increase its intensity and more steals were tallied by the home team. In a blink of an eye, Minnesota went on a 10-0 run, halting Washington’s early offense. By the end of the first, the Lynx were up 24-16.
However, once the second frame started, the Mystics stormed back into the game with its will to keep fighting. Even though Washington was fighting to erase its deficit the Lynx’s defense came up huge again to ignite its offense and go on another scoring rampage.
“Defensively I think we’re pretty hard to play against. We have a great understanding of what we’re trying to get a team to do,” said Minnesota’s head coach Cheryl Reeve. “We’ll need that now more than ever, trying to take a team out of their stuff and continuing to be hard to play against.”
Moore wasn’t the only offensive weapon for Minnesota as the next scoring rampage came from Renee Montgomery. Together, Montgomery and Moore were huge sparks for their team in the first half. In fact, by intermission, Montgomery had delivered an impressive 18 points. The 5-foot-7-inch dynamo was unstoppable on every part of the floor, hitting three-pointers and driving through the barricades of twice-her-size centers.
By intermission, the Lynx held the lead, 51-44.
As the game continued, Minnesota’s message was stated over and over again throughout the contest: no matter how close an opponent comes, the Lynx can go on a huge run to create separation again.
Washington continued to creep into striking territory of taking the lead from the Lynx, yet, Minnesota would orchestrate another scoring symphony -- once again regaining a bigger lead.
In only a way she can, Moore responded in the final frame to once and for all silence the Mystics with big play after big play. Moore had three thefts by the end of the game, splashed in three long-range shots, and constantly was scoring in the paint – she finished with a game-high 26.
“I feel good. I think the last couple of weeks, I felt more and more like myself to be able to perform physically and mentally at the level that my team needs. I’m really happy to be playing well, playing with that poise and that energy that my teammates are used to having with me,” said Moore.
The Mystics could never quite get back into their initial lead from those first minutes of the game and soon found themselves suffering the consequences. Kristi Toliver and Delle Donne put up a valiant effort with 20 and 12 points, respectfully, however, their points weren’t enough to slay the Lynx.
Minnesota showed few signs of weakness to their opponent and earned the victory in their final regular season game, 86-72. The win also secured the top spot entering playoffs. As if home court advantage wasn’t good enough news, after the game Reeve and Montgomery confirmed starting point guard, Lindsay Whalen would be healthy enough to play in the post-season.
"I'm so happy that Wheezy is coming back, I can finally say that. I had to fill in, I'm glad that I was able to step up, but I'm very, very happy that she's back. I've told her a million times when she's coming back and she's back," said Montgomery.
Reeve plans to push Whalen on the court when the team returns to practice after having Monday and Tuesday off.
"As far as I know, when Wednesday comes it's full and so I'll ask her to be our starting point guard, and start focusing on the things we want to do, to install for playoffs. I need her to push herself physically, the first three nights of practice she needs to get herself exhausted, because she's worked hard from the conditioning stand point.
“But there's nothing like going up and down and rep after rep and play offensive hard, drive in for a lay-up, get knocked down, sprint back and play defense," said Reeve on Whalen's return.