Minnesota rising on the backs of newcomers
After losing their season opener on the road in Los Angeles, the Minnesota Lynx bounced back with two wins this week. First the Lynx exacted revenge on Los Angeles by beating the Sparks Sunday at the Target Center to give loyal fans a home opener gift. Then, last night, after a 17-3 run fast start to build an insurmountable edge, Minnesota (2-1) beat the Tulsa Shock (0-2).
Even as the Shock mounted a fourth quarter comeback to decrease their deficit to nine, the Lynx held on and executed down the stretch to earn the victory in front of a crowd of 7,713. There were no lead changes or ties in the game. Rebekkah Brunson carried the Lynx with a double-double, her third of the season, and finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Lynx forward Seimone Augustus talked about the teamâ€™s victories and the momentum needed to stay successful. The team hosts the reigning champions, the Seattle Storm, on Thursday.
“[H]opefully we can continue to keep this thing going,â€ she said. â€œSeattle is going to be a tough match, facing them is like the championship game. If you want to get there, you got to go through them. This will be a great test for us.”
Minnesota has played the most games of any team in the league so far in the season. Statistically, its leaders are a mix of the old and the new. Although rookie Maya Moore only scored seven points on 2 of 10Â from the field Tuesday night, her first outings as a pro were impressive with a 21-point game to start her career and 16 points in the Sparks rematch. She leads the team in points per game and minutes per game. On the veteran side of things, forward Brunson is the teamâ€™s rebounding machine, pulling down an average of 14, while Augustus and starting point guard Lindsay Whalen are also performing well. Whalen is averaging 5.3 assists per game.
All three of the Lynxâ€™s statistical leadersÂ have been with the team for a season or less. Both Brunson and Whalen arrived last year and of course, this season is Mooreâ€™s first. Augustus trails them in points (10.3 ppg), rebounding (3.30 rpg) and is the only Lynx â€œold-timerâ€ in the staring lineup. She reached a rebounding milestone in the game. She collected four to accumulate her 500th career rebound.
The Numbers (players who have been with the team for more than two years in bold)
Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve
On Brunson’s play tonight:
“Thank goodness she showed up. We said she got the game ball tonight, 17 [points] and 15 [rebounds]. She is just relentless. She just does not know any other way. It is just one of those things I am very happy she is on our ball club. I just have a great deal of appreciation for the way she approaches the game. Her play is contagious. Tonight was obviously a really good game for her and I think that is three double-double’s she has got and we just got to keep that thing rolling.”
On Amber Harris’ minutes tonight (more time than expected to see):
“I do not know if I necessarily agree with that. Especially when you are playing against the 6-9 Elizabeth Cambage, so I do not necessarily agree with that. I was not necessarily overly happy with Amber’s play. But the one thing it did was give us a lot of video for her to look at and to learn from.”
On defensive approach of containing Cambage:
“Taj understands our defense really, really well. She fights the post probably better than any other post defender in the league and we are trying to teach those things to Amber, Amber is 6-5 and Taj is 6-2, but Taj has the ability to keep Cambage from catching the ball where Cambage wants to catch it, Amber has to learn those things. Again, Taj is invaluable–she make struggle offensively in moments but there is no substitute for what she gives us on the defensive end.
Lynx Forward Rebekkah Brunson
On goals coming into the game:
“My goal coming into this year was to stay within myself. I think that we have pieces everywhere, where we have great people at every position. I know what I am capable of and I know what I am good at and what got me here. I want to stay within myself and work at the things that I do well.”
On winning on the defensive end:
“It is good to know what we can do that. Even though we have great scorers, you are not always going to be that team offensively. At times you are going to have to rely on your defense. It was great to feel capable of doing that. It definitely helps for the confidence as far as our defense’s concern. We will continue to grow and work at it.”
Lynx Forward Seimone Augustus
On team’s chemistry preparing for Seattle:
“Like I said, we still have a few minor tweaks, it is just the third game of the season. It is still early and get some things together but we are going to go in and fight hard as we have been.”
Shock Coach Nolan Richardson
“Like I said earlier, I’ve got a young basketball team. Andrea, who’s never played at all, played in the ballgame tonight, gave us a little bit more… another guard that can help a little bit, you can see she’s out of shape, she hasn’t really did any running yet. We set the workout yesterday and that’s going to help us a lot. As soon as we get the conditioning in her, it’ll add to the ballclub. We think that a few more games, we’ve been on the road. We’ve been in Seattle, San Antonio and we’ve been here and the thing that I’m pleased with is the fact that they never gave up and they came back. Right there where Liz (Cambage) misses two little chippies, that’s a four point game. When you’ve got them playing in that position, the goal is not that big like it was before, but instead of that happening, they were able to get a little of momentum and hold on and win a basketball game. They played well — talking about Minnesota. I thought at times we played well, I think we still need to do a lot more work on our scramble defense. Right at the last part of the ballgame, I put it in and let them work on that a little bit and it didn’t look bad.”
On Cambage’s play:
“I love this kid. This kid has a chance to be one of the bright stars of the WNBA. The way that she’s taking punishment at times, and she just keeps fighting back. She’s 19 years old. To me, she’s going to be incredible by the time she reaches 22, she’s going to be a monster. They’re going to have a hard time dealing with her.”
On the difference in fast break points:
“They were pushing the ball right down, and they were attacking the glass. Any time you’ve got a team that’s mature and as polished of players as the Maya Moores and the Seimones… Wright, you can go on and on with their players. They don’t have any players that are kind of learning the game, they’ve been there and done that, so it didn’t surprise me that they were able to get that many fast break points. I think the thing that was really concerning me was that we’ve got to do a better job of stopping the fast break points because that’s what we live off of.”
Shock Center Elizabeth Cambage
“It’s good, I just wish we got the win, but I just need to get stronger and make those easy baskets.”
On adjustments she needs to make to the WNBA game:
“The physicality. Just taking the bump and finishing hard.”
On necessary team improvements:
“Probably just starting well. It was like this with my old team back in Australia. We didn’t start playing well until we were down by a fair bit, so just coming out and just being focused and ready to play.
Shock Guard Ivory Latta
“That’s all, we just need to get a rhythm. 0-2, we need to still keep our head up and go out there and play hard. We’ve got a game Friday against San Antonio, gotta get ready for the scouting report, looking forward to that and go home and play in front of a sellout crowd.”
On coming back to make it a competitive game:
“It felt good, coming back, but we’ve got to start off and continue like that. We just have to start off from the get, just play hard, stay focused and just stick with our game plan and not always get into what the other team is doing. Most likely, just go out there and play our game. That’s it.”
On the difference in fast break scoring:
“It was just that our shots weren’t falling and they were out breaking. That’s something that we’ve definitely got to work on. Everybody has to get back and match up. We got to do that better. As time goes, we’ll get better.”