Guru's WNBA Report: Whalen's Shot At Finish Over Washington Keeps Minnesota Unbeaten
WASHINGTON -- The good news for the Washington Mystics in their WNBA cross-conference matchup with the defending champions Minnesota Lynx was they reduced their turnovers and forged an impressive rally from 24-point deficit in the second half.
The bad news was that even in challenging moments, the Lynx find ways to win and when it came to crunch time in the final minute and final second of that minute, Olympian and All-Star Lindsay Whalen came through again to give Minnesota a 79-77 victory to stay unbeaten at 5-0.
It had been cruise night in the first half for the Lynx rolling to a 51-31 lead at the break shooting 65.6 percent from the field.
The only positive thing that could be said for the home team is that the near-record 32 miscues recorded in Saturday's win here against the struggling Tulsa Shock were limited to six.
But after Whalen's two free-throws expanded the differential to 24 points at 59-35 with 6 minutes, 36 seconds left in the third quarter, the Lynx's advantage began to shrivel to 10 at the end of the period and even worse when the Mystics (1-2) went ahead twice on Michelle Snow baskets at 73-72 with 3:24 left in the game and again at 75-74 just 50 seconds later.
Whalen, however, who had been upset with her six turnovers, drove to the basket and though she missed the shot, a foul by Natasha Lacy sent her to the line and she converted both free throws as the Lynx went ahead 77-75 with 42.9 seconds left.
Washington, which last year used a similar rally from 24 down in the second half against the Los Angeles Sparks to win on the road, was not done and tied the game on Crystal Langhorne's basket with 25.7 seconds left.
But Whalen wasn't through, either, scoring on a layup with one second left to keep the Lynx perfect.
"My assistants tell me `Stuff happens on the road,'" Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said afterwards trying to find perspective from a performance that did not leave her entirely overjoyced.
"Washington understood it was a 40-minute game," said Reeve, whose team heads for Connecticut Friday night against the Sun, one of two unbeatens in the Eastern Conference along with the Indiana Fever. "I thought we played well in the first half and then for some reason, we didn't understand that we had to keep playing."
The loss became another one similar to last year when 15 got away in the final minutes though Wednesday night it was Washington attempting to be the one to grab a win as a decided underdog.
"We weren't on point," Reeve said. "I told our players, `Usually I could say a win is a win,' but this was a day I couldn't particularly say that."
Second-year pro Maya Moore, a former UConn sensation, and veteran Rebekkah Brunson, who played her collegiate ball near here at Georgetown, each scored 16 points for the Lynx while Brunson also grabbed nine rebounds.
Seimone Augustus, who along with Moore and Whalen will be training here in July with the Olympic team before heading to London, scored 15 points and Whalen had 11.
Former Rutgers star Matee Ajavon agains sparked the Mystics off the bench, this time with 20 points, while Noelle Quinn and Monique Currie each scored 13, and Langhorne scored 12.
Washington, having finished its opening homestand, now takes off for a two-game jaunt to the Chicago Sky, Friday night, and then to Connecticut Sunday afternoon before returning here on Friday next week against the New York Liberty.
Wednesday's game also featured a reunion of two-time NCAA runnerup Notre Dame stars in Washington rookie Natalie Novosel, who scored a basket in 3:44 of playing time, and Minnesota newcomer Deveraux Peters, who grabbed five rebounds, including some critical offensive boards in the final minute, to help win the game.
"Yeah, I guess Natalie has to buy," Peters grinned afterwards.
"We're glad we got the win but we know we have a lot to watch, a lot to learn from the film," Whalen said. "We can just try to get better. We can take this and continue to try to improve."
"I just wanted to make the play and the ball came bouncing back to me at the end."
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