Minneapolis, MN - The Minnesota Lynx (8-0) put their perfect record on the line Tuesday night, as they played host to the Phoenix Mercury, (2-6) for the second time this season. Minnesota fell behind early, but clawed back late in the second half to overcome Phoenix, 89-81.
With Olympians accounted for on both rosters it came to no surprise that an intense 40 minutes of up-and-down play was in store. The Phoenix Mercury didn't waste any time cashing in early during the first ten minutes, igniting a 6-0 run.
With a 14-6 lead building, Minnesota turned to a rather new face, Jia Perkins, who came off the bench with the answers. Perkins knocked down a three-pointer after getting fouled by DeWanna Bonner and would go to the charity stripe to cap off a four-point play.
"They have a really good bench, and we left [Jia] Perkins open once and we left Renee [Montgomery] open once," Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello said. "These were little mental breakdowns, and we are still getting our chemistry together, but their bench really helped them out tonight."
This gave Maya Moore the opportunity to knot the game at 15, when she drained a deep corner three to keep the defending WNBA Champions within striking distance. The Lynx went on an 11-3 run to end the quarter, after shooting only 26 percent from the field, compared to the Mercury's 50 percent.
"If told me we shot 37 percent playing Phoenix, I would have told you we lost by 20, Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve said. "That's what I told the team I was particularly proud of, just finding a way, because it wasn't like we were getting bad shots.
I just thought that for whatever reason, Phoenix's defense for sure, they went to another level today and put us under duress. They were a big reason why our percentage was low."
Phoenix continued with the momentum into the second quarter, to surge a 10-0 run that pushed the lead to nine. Despite having 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, the Mercury held onto a 38-32 lead at the half. This marked the first time all season, Minnesota trailed headed into the locker room.
Phoenix opened up the third quarter in likely fashion with a 7-0 run, looking to put Minnesota away. Foul trouble kept Brittney Griner on the bench, freeing up Sylvia Fowles to go to work in the paint.
"This was a good time on my behalf. [Brunson] had some runs, Whalen had some good runs... at that point in time, this was my time to just take over the game, and my teammates had an understanding of how to get me the ball and where I need to be at the right time," said Fowles.
Fowles finished the contest with 21 points, shooting a near perfect percentage from the line by going 9-for10, giving the Lynx's their highest points scored this season in a quarter at 31.
Perkins hit a late three-pointer to pull the Lynx within one, but Phoenix quickly responded with a three of their own. After a dramatic third quarter, the Mercury went into the final 10 minutes with a two-point lead, 65-63.
A late surge by Moore, put Minnesota back in the lead for the first time since the 8:50 mark in the second quarter. A 12-2 Minnesota run silenced the Mercury, as they began to pull away. Moore finished with a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds.
One player attributes their comeback to their mindset and belief in one another. "We always believe we can win, and I think that has a lot to do with winning when you never think you're down and out," Minnesota Lynx Renee Montgomery said. "I think it's a trust factor."
Minnesota had five players finish in double digits, including Renee Montgomery with 18 points, Rebekkah Brunson with 12, and Perkins with 11. Griner lead Phoenix with 14 points and six boards, while Bonner and Diana Taurasi pitched in 14 and 12 points, respectively.