The Minnesota Lynx hoped to confirm their status as the best team in the WNBA Wednesday afternoon at home against the Connecticut Sun. In a back and forth battle the Sun outlasted the Lynx in overtime, 78-77, and snapped a seven-game losing streak.
In a close game, both teams were quiet in the first half. However, in the third quarter, Minnesota found its stride. Led by Maya Moore, who seems to always come alive in the third, the Lynx dominated offensively. Moore had a one-footed fall away jumper to put her in double-digit scoring.
Asjha Jones also recorded double digits in the third. The true difference maker, though, was Rebekkah Brunson. She recorded her second straight double-double, making it five on the season. Her offensive rebounds combined with the scoring of Moore and Jones gave Minnesota an eight-point lead.
The Sun weren’t going to give up that easily. Shekinna Stricklen and the Sun defense stopped the roaring Lynx offense and began their comeback with methodical offensive possessions. Connecticut entered the fourth quarter with a 53-51 lead.
"I think we had good execution down the stretch, said Connecticut Sun Head Coach Anne Donovan. "Our bench stepped up in a huge way tonight. We’ve been talking about needing them since the seven and one mark, and the last couple of games, they’ve really stepped it up."
Both teams struggled with turnovers and allowing points after turnovers. With less than a minute remaining, Minnesota had the ball and a two-point lead. The Lynx forced the ball inside to Moore, who took a poor angle shot, misses and just like that the Sun have the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.
Jasmine Thomas drives to the basket and is fouled by Devereaux Peters with 32 seconds left on the clock. Thomas missed the first, but sinks the second shot. Minnesota remained in the lead 67-66 and had possession.
Obviously, the Lynx will be looking to keep the ball in Moore’s hands. Moore is looking to record her eighth straight game with over 20 points, which will be a new franchise record.
She previously set the franchise record at seven consecutive games last season. Moore gets the ball and sinks a layup off the board with 13 seconds remaining. Those two points not only give Minnesota a three-point lead, but they also mean Moore has set a new franchise record.
With little time remaining, Connecticut needs a three-pointer to send the game into overtime. They work around the inbound pass. Stricklen has the ball, thinks about shooting, but finds a wide open Thomas, who sinks the three-point shot to tie the game 69-69 and sent the game into overtime.
The Sun just refused to give up.
"I think we had good execution down the stretch, said Coach Donovan. "Our bench stepped up in a huge way tonight. We’ve been talking about needing them since the seven and one mark, and the last couple of games, they’ve really stepped it up.
"We had great practice energy from the bench yesterday and really, it was about them. Jasmine Thomas really turned a corner for us."
In overtime, the Lynx scored six unanswered points and lead 75-71. Two crucial penalties gave Connecticut life. With just under a minute, Moore is called for a foul on Alex Bentley and sends her to the line.
She hit both free throws to narrow the deficit 75-73. On the ensuing Minnesota possession, Jones is called for an illegal screen giving the ball right back to the Sun.
Connecticut found an open Thomas, who again sank a three-point shot to give the Sun a 76-75 lead with under 30 seconds remaining. Moore responded with an aggressive drive and basket, putting the Lynx back up 76-77 with 17 seconds remaining.
The next Connecticut possession resulted in a pull-up jumper from Camille Little, giving the Sun a 78-77 lead with eight seconds on the clock. Minnesota tried to put up a basket, but couldn’t convert.
"Our defense wasn’t as tight as it needed to be at the end to close out the game," said Moore. "But every game, every night is competitive. We just didn’t put together enough stops toward the end of the game to close it out."
In a game that truly came down to the last seconds, Connecticut outlasted the Lynx and recorded a crucial win heading into the All-Star Break.
"It’s a big relief," says Thomas. "It sucks because we feel like we have momentum, so I kind of wish we didn’t have the break, but I feel like everyone’s in a good place, and everyone needs rest."