With their 81-73 win over the Indiana Fever, the Minnesota Lynx capped off a pretty good week in which they clinched their ninth-straight playoff berth and picked up their fourth consecutive win.
But the players did not rest on their laurels. They enjoyed themselves out in the community with trips to the Minnesota State Fair and Valleyfair Amusement Park. They also got a visit from members of the World Cup-winning US Women’s National Team.
But the Fever insisted on making things difficult.
Veteran Candice Dupree set the tone early for her young team. The player who has made the most two-pointers in WNBA history had it going early, swishing a trio of first-quarter baskets. The energetic Tiffany Mitchell also chipped in four points and two assists.
The first quarter also established the terms of engagement for the battle between former MVP Sylvia Fowles and the rapidly-improving rookie Teaira McCowan. Rather than buckets and blocks, this contest was characterized by intangible action, with the pair mostly neutralizing each other in the paint. Fowles was scoreless when foul trouble sent her to the bench. McCowan mustered a slight edge for five points and two rebounds in the period.
While Indiana led 23-20 after the first quarter, Minnesota appeared poised to take control early in the second, converting a flurry of Fever turnovers into points. But they could not maintain this momentum, again allowing timely scoring from Dupree, which kept the Fever in the game. Indiana held a 41-38 halftime lead.
The game remained knotted throughout much of third quarter, with Indiana holding a slight edge on the scoreboard due to Dupree. In the final minute of the period, Minnesota went on the 7-0 run, taking the lead and causing Target Center to rock. Yet, Dupree struck again, sinking a smooth midrange jumper. But Lexie Brown answered with a fade-away three-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Lynx the 61-59 two-point lead to start the fourth.
like TLC...— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) September 2, 2019
In the final period of regulation, Sylvia Fowles began to impact the game. She scored a physical bucket over McCowan and the rookie expressed her frustrations, resulting in a technical foul — her fifth overall. With McCowan on the bench, the Lynx went to Fowles and the former Defensive Player of the Year went to work, scoring six points in the quarter and 10 points overall.
Dynamic drives from Odyssey Sims and timely hustle plays by Napheesa Collier also helped Minnesota extend the advantage.
Although Indiana never relented, the Lynx held on for the eight-point win.
Sims scored a team-high 17 points, while Collier finished with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. For Indiana, Dupree had a game-high 18 points. McCowan ended with 12 points and 11 rebounds. While Tiffany Mitchell and Betnijah Laney also scored in double figures, All-Star Game MVP Erica Wheeler had a quiet night, going scoreless with only four assists.
The stubborn Wings refused to let the Mystics pull away. Nevertheless, a 30-point night from Arike Ogunbowale, along with 20 points from Glory Johnson, were not enough to overcome the excellence of Elena Delle Donne. The presumptive MVP scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Sixth-woman Shatori Walker-Kimbrough also was on fire, shooting over 70% from floor and contributing 13 points.
All the fourth-quarter fire and post-game feels for Kelsey Plum!
Just like last Sunday, Brittney Griner got buckets, but the Sky got the win. With scoring contributions from across the lineup, Chicago did not allow their losing streak to extend beyond two games. The power forward position provided a particular punch for the Sky, with both Astou Ndour and Cheyenne Parker putting in 18 points apiece. Courtney Vandersloot again accumulated the assists, adding 13 to her already record-breaking season total. Of concern for the Mercury, Diana Taurasi still has not found her stroke, scoring only three points on five shot attempts.
After suffering two-straight losses, a matchup with the Dream was just what the Storm needed. However, despite stretching their lead to more than 20 points, the win would not be too easy. Atlanta cut the margin to single digits in the fourth before Settle reestablished separation. Jordin Canada turned in a complete game for the Storm, scoring 21 points, dishing eight assists and snagging five steals. Alysha Clark contributed a hot-shooting performance — 77% from the field — on her way to 16 points. For Atlanta, Renee Montgomery continued her strong scoring streak, connecting on five threes for 15 points. Monique Billings added 15 points off the bench.
Where things stand
Even as the season enters the final week, playoff seeds are anything but finalized. The Mystics, Sun, Sparks, Storm and Mercury all play three games this week, presenting the possibility for movement in the standings. For now, the Mystics and Sun remain in the top two spots, followed by the Aces and Sparks. The Sky continue to lurk in fifth place, while the Lynx hold a half game lead over the Storm. The Mercury remain in eighth.
On Tuesday, Seattle will try to keep its advantage over Phoenix when the two teams meet in the desert. Washington and Los Angeles will have the opportunity to solidify their places in the standings, with games against New York and Atlanta, respectively. On Wednesday, Connecticut will seek to do the same when they face Dallas. A pair of Thursday games — Vegas-Atlanta and Seattle-Los Angeles — could have significant seeding implications, especially if the Dream can play spoiler. A four-game Friday night features five playoff teams in action, highlighted by a battle between Chicago and Connecticut. All teams play on Sunday, Sept. 8, which is the last day of the regular season.