Guru's WNBA Report: Minnesota Lynx No Longer Jinxed
By Mel Greenberg
The Minnesota Lynx in recent seasons have had lots of high draft picks and lots of stars but the franchise has come up empty when it came to making the playoffs.
All that appears to be on the way to changing in 2011 especially if the Lynx can avoid injuries that dogged them in the recent past.
On Thursday night for the second time this week Minnesota has struck back against an opponent who has controlled the Lynx in various settings for an extended period.
This time it was the defending champion Seattle Storm that was toppled as a result of a ferocious start that carried the Lynx not only to an 81-74 victory but one that also saw several other Storm streaks get quelled.
Minnesota led by 28-8 at the end of the first quarter, 50-24 at the half, and 64-39 at the end of the third before a 35-17 rush in the fourth by Seattle at Key Arena made the outcome seem more competitive.
“We put a lot of effort and emphasis into this game,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said from the Northwest by phone to the Guru late Thursday night after the win.
“It’s a shame the TV streaming feed (from the WNBA website) had problems early and people couldn’t watch the game for a while because we really came out relentless at the start. We’ve had starts like this before but last season we were unable to finish off.
“We love playing here and we had two games last year we felt we let get away. When we saw Washington won earlier in the night, we said, `OK, it’s going to be road-win night in the WNBA.’
“It’s still very early but I like what we’re doing so far,” Reeve said after Minnesota’s third straight win.
It was Minnesota’s first win in nine tries in Seattle, the same streak-snapping numbers the Lynx had overall when they beat Los Angeles at home Sunday after losing the season opener on the road Friday night to the Sparks in southern California.
The Lynx, who had a similar start against the Tulsa Shock Tuesday night in a win at home, also stopped Seattle’s regular season 18-game home win streak that included 17-0 a year ago on the way to the Storm’s second WNBA title when they were also 4-0 at Key Arena in the playoffs.
The Minnesota (3-1) win in Seattle was the first since an 86-81 triumph in overtime just under six years ago in 2005.
The common denominator in all four games for the Lynx has been the double double outputs by former Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson, who had 22 points and 14 rebounds against Seattle.
Seimone Augustus, a former LSU star, had 17 points for the Lynx while former UConn sensation Maya Moore, the overall number one pick in the draft in April, had 14 points. Lindsay Whalen in the backcourt had 13 points and dealt 10 assists.
Sue Bird, another former UConn star, had 16 of her 24 points for the Storm in the fourth quarter to help chop a 30-point lead in the second half down to six with 29 seconds left before Minnesota wrapped up the win with six straight foul shots.
Swin Cash, still another ex-Huskie, had 18 points for Seattle (1-1) but Lauren Jackson was held to nine points.
Minnesota is now off until hosting Atlanta next Friday while Seattle has similar time off before hosting Indiana.
Mystics Deliver A Payback To Atlanta
Overtime has not been the Dream’s time at home in Phillips Arena where Atlanta (0-2), the defending Eastern Conference champion, again fell in an extra period, this time to the Washington Mystics 98-90 on Thursday night after Sunday’s loss to the New York Liberty.
Atlanta, the fourth seed in the East in the playoffs, upset Washington 2-0 in the conference semifinals in September before going on to sweep New York 2-0 and then losing three narrow outcomes to Seattle in the championship series.
Washington, which lost to the Connecticut Sun in Saturday’s season opener for both teams, evened its record to 1-1.
Crystal Langhorne, who had 30 points and 13 rebounds for the Mystics, was one of the Maryland mainstays in a bunch of overtime wins in 2006, her sophomore season, on the way to the Terrapins winning their first and only NCAA title, which also was an overtime triumph against Atlantic Coast rival Duke in Boston.
Nicky Anosike, a former Tennessee star acquired in an offseason deal with Minnesota, had a career-high 29 points and 13 rebounds, while former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon had 24 points. Kelly Miller, who was dealt from Atlanta to Washington in a draft-day trade in April, had 10 points against her former team which has her twin sister Coco, a former Mystics player, on the roster.
Washington, allowed to sign former Connecticut Sun player Kerri Gardin, because of a medical hardship, was missing former Duke star Alana Beard (bruised foot), rookie Ta’Shia Phillips (anke) out of Xavier, and former Duke star Monique Currie, who is sidelined for the season with a knee injury suffered last winter.
Ajavon has moved into a starting role in the wake of Beard’s injury, which is expected to keep her sidelined for another week.
Gardin was cut last Friday to make room for former UConn post player Jessica Moore, who had been released by the Indiana Fever to get down to the 11-player roster limit to open the season.
Atlanta had been without third-year pro Angel McCoughtry, the Dream’s leading scorer out of Louisville, because of a knee injury, but she returned Thursday in a limited role of three minutes, and scored just two points.
Erika DeSouza had 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Dream, who got 16 points from Iziane Castro Marques, 12 from Armintie Price, 11 from newcomer Lindsey Harding, and 10 from Sancho Lyttle.
Harding, a former Duke star, was acquired from the Mystics in a draft day trade.
Miller tied the game in the closing seconds with a three-pointer but then Harding missed a wild shot that would have won the game in regulation at the buzzer.
Harding missed a foul shot Sunday that could have beaten the Liberty in regulation and in 2007 missed two foul shots with less than a second remaining in the NCAA Greensboro Regional semifinal that allowed Rutgers to move on with a one-point victory to eventually advance to the NCAA title game.
In an interesting back-to-back weekend series, Indiana hosts New York Friday night and then travels Saturday to the Liberty, which will officially open their home slate in the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., their temporary home for the next three summers while Madison Square Garden undergoes renovations.
New York beat the Fever in the conference semifinals last season after Indiana had won the Eastern playoffs and regular season title in 2009.
Connecticut travels to the Chicago Sky Friday night and then returns home Sunday to host Tulsa, which will be the only game on the WNBA schedule that day. The Sky, on a back-to-back, travels to Washington Saturday.
San Antonio, which opened the season with a win over Tulsa at home last Saturday, travels to Oklahoma to meet the Shock Friday and then hosts Atlanta Saturday.
The Phoenix Mercury travels to Los Angeles Friday night in the only other WNBA game scheduled for the weekend.