Brunson dominates the boards as Lynx take game 1 in Western Conference finals, beat Phoenix 67-60
The Minnesota Lynx defeated the Phoenix Mercury 67-60 in game one of the Western Conference finals at the Target Center Thursday night in Minneapolis in front of 8,732 fans.
The Lynx started off slow, trailing the Mercury 21-14 after the first quarter. However, after a layup from Sylvia Fowles, a jumper from Rebekkah Brunson and two more jump shots from Maya Moore early in the second quarter, they took the lead from the Mercury and never trailed again.
Minnesota can sweep the series on Sunday in Phoenix with a win to advance to the WNBA Finals for the third time in the last five seasons.
Moore led the Lynx with 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Brunson finished with 13 points and 19 rebounds, marking her 10th playoff career double-double. Her 19 rebounds are a postseason high as well as a franchise record and ranks fourth in the WNBA for most rebounds in a playoff game. Brunson held the previous franchise record with 16 points set at San Antonio on Sept. 18, 2011.
Seimone Augustus and Fowles also finished with double digits for the Lynx. Augustus scored 14 points and Fowles had 12 points plus 14 rebounds.
DeWanna Bonner was the only Phoenix player to each double digits, posting a game-high 21 points.
Play resumes in Phoenix on Sunday, Sept. 27 for game 2. The game is set to tipoff at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
It is the third consecutive and fourth overall postseason the two squads have squared off in the Western Conference Finals. The winner of series has gone on to win the WNBA Championship, with Minnesota winning the championship in 2011 and 2013 while Phoenix took home the title in 2014.
With the win the Lynx improve to 26-12 all-time in WNBA Playoffs and 19-2 at Target Center. Both marks are the best for any team in league postseason history. Minnesota has now won 10 straight playoff games at home and is 11-3 in Game 1’s.
The Lynx’s Brunson (143 -58 games) entered tonight’s game needing two offensive rebounds to overtake Taj McWilliams-Franklin (137 – 64 playoff games) for first place on the all-time postseason offensive rebounds leaderboard. She finished the game with a game-high seven offensive rebounds to reach the milestone.
Brunson and Fowles outrebounded Phoenix as a team 33-30 and helped Minnesota to a 44-30 advantage on the glass. The Minnesota’s +14 rebounding margin ranks fifth in Minnesota playoff history. Lynx also dominated inside the paint, outscoring Phoenix 38-18. Phoenix’s 18 points in the paint marks the fewest pain points allowed in Lynx playoff history. During the regular season, Phoenix averaged 31.8 paint points and allowed 30.0 points in the paint.
Minnesota held the Mercury to just 32.8 percent (19-for-58) from the floor, marking the second-lowest field goal percentage it has allowed in a playoff game. The Lynx held Atlanta to 31.2 percent in the 2013 WNBA Finals.
By the Numbers
Points in the Paint: Mercury 18, Lynx 38
Second Chance Points: Mercury 5, Lynx 15
Fastbreak Points: Mercury 7, Lynx 8
Biggest Lead: Mercury 9, Lynx 9
Lead Changes: 1
Times Tied: 0
Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve
“We expected a grinded out game, I just didn’t know it was going to be to that level – what we just went through. Two really, really good teams defensively that really believe in what they’re doing at that end of the floor. Just everything was hard, for both teams, for all players. Everybody was playing hard, and in terms of execution, I’m sure both coaches would like better, but we have to give both of our team’s defense a lot of credit.”
On Rebekkah Brunson’s performance tonight…
“Rebekkah was unbelievable. Our sponsorship people need to get on her right now. Curad, Band-Aid, something… She needs to be the face of it, because there was not a bigger band-aid than what we just experienced tonight with Rebekkah. She was so engaged, probably the only player that gave a high level performance. The other players struggled – I’ll be really honest – physically they really struggled. But Rebekkah gave us such a lift, my goodness, she had so much energy, she’s so darn hard to play against. She listened to what was available to her and just went out there and took it. The possession at the end there gave us that huge lift that put back, obviously we were missing a ton of shots. We just needed every bit of it, I’m just thrilled for her. She took over the all-time offensive rebounder in history, she is now the leader and that’s just so fitting for her.”
On recovering from first quarter turnovers…
“You know, it’s a long game and we knew our defense was going to be able to get us some stops, but obviously seven turnovers, that was just brutal. We came out flat and I guess it’s not surprising when you come off the series that we came off of with L. A., quick turn around, and we were just flat. I was worried a little bit before the game at some of the things I saw. We just had to keep fighting through it, we were just trying to push through it and hang in there. We got our confidence back, but it was just a struggle for us most of the game.”
Brunson’s 19th rebound being the best of the game…
“Absolutely, absolutely, I don’t think you can label each one; they were all pretty timely. At the end of the half, we got the momentum and closed out the game. I know I did a terrible job of putting us in a position to be more successful to get the ball to our great free-throw shooters. They’re not bad free-throw shooters, they’re just not our best and Brunson just wanted it, she wanted it really, really badly.”
Minnesota Lynx Rebekkah Brunson
On her performance and energy…
“I knew it was going to be a point for me to get us going. They’re a team that comes out aggressive in the beginning in the first quarter and things weren’t really going our way, so I just tried to do whatever I could to uplift us.”
“Coming into the game, we knew that rebounding was going to be important for us and we knew there was going to be lots of opportunities to get boards. We just continued to be aggressive on the court throughout the game to be successful.”
On playing 40 minutes…
“I just know that it’s important. That’s something that I bring to this team and something that makes my role special. I just wanted to go out there and do whatever I could. I just tried to be aggressive on the board, tried to get as many as possible and I grabbed a lot. Whatever I can do to keep us in the game when we’re having lows, then I’m going to try to do it.”
On being the all-time playoff offensive-rebounding leader…
“It feels really good. That’s something that I pride myself on – going out there, being aggressive on the boards and it feels even better knowing we got the win after it. That’s just something that I do and I’m going to continue to try to crash and continue to get rebounds and help this team.”
Minnesota Lynx Sylvia Fowles
On playing against Brittney Griner…
“You’ve just got to stay aggressive, move your feet, make her think and my teammates did a great job with helping me when she’d catch the ball, just showing bodies and making sure she was crowded. That’s how we maintained her tonight.”
“It’s not about me and it’s not about Griner because we can’t win a game on our own. It’s about team and how we go out and perform as a unit.”
On playing in Phoenix…
“We think it’s going to be tough. We know how Phoenix plays at home, but with that said, we can only be the Minnesota Lynx and play the way we’re capable of playing. The things that we didn’t do so well tonight, just making sure we capitalize on that in Phoenix.”
Phoenix Mercury head coach Sandy Brondello
On the momentum swing in Minnesota’s favor…
“Well I think it was Minnesota going to another level and the points in the paint. I thought Rebekkah Brunson was a beast and that’s what she’s capable of, to play 40 minutes and just to play as hard as she did, she was a hard guard for us, as was Fowles. We have to do a better job – 38 points in the paint, that’s unacceptable. Look, I thought our defense overall was pretty good, it’s about finishing the play – it’s really the offense where we had the struggle.”
On offensive struggles…
“I think we went away from what we’ve been doing well to finish this season, this last month in particular. We just stopped moving the ball, and we credit Minnesota for that. They put pressure on us, but you got to be on the front foot. I thought we did a poor job of moving the ball side to side, and they just took us out of what made us a good team this year. But this team will respond, we’re pretty good, we’re a resilient bunch, we’ve faced a lot of adversity and we’ll regroup and come out Sunday on our home court and put out a better showing.”
On Bonner being the only player to reach double-digit points…
“I’m not sure, well obviously Minnesota’s defense, they’re hard to beat at home, in particular. Just not being aggressive and not being on the front foot. You always have to be on the front foot. We shot the ball poorly and some players just didn’t want to come off and shoot it, but you’ve got to come off with speed, and then keep moving the ball and usually good things happen. We’re a much better team offensively than what we showed tonight so I’m confident that we’ll bounce back.”
Phoenix Mercury DeWanna Bonner
On offensive struggles…
“They took us on everything… at that point we’ve got to be aggressive and attack the basket. [Minnesota] is a great defensive team, they just took us out of options down low. I think we had it going in the first half… they turned it up a notch.”
On playing Brunson and Fowles…
“I think we played great defense and we gave them easy basket with offensive rebounds. They killed us on boards, Brunson in particular. She just goes and gets balls and we’ve just got to box out a little bit better. She pursued the ball very well, so at that point, that gives them a little bit of the momentum – especially here at home and she just did a great job. We’ve got to be a little bit aware and go home and box out a little more.”
On playing at home…
“We’ll have a little bit more energy – we’re on our homecourt. Just having that Phoenix crowd gives us a boost – especially when it’s scoring in transition and that offensive rebounding we had at the end with Brunson, I think that’s harder gain… especially with the momentum right there.”
“Everybody just has to be a little bit more aggressive. Even if you’ve had shots, just to still put pressure on them a little bit more. We’ve got to find a way to establish [Brittney Griner] and Candice inside, for sure. I think we need a little more points in the paint and – [Brittney Griner] she’ll ready for next game. I think they did a great job on her and for the next game, she’ll be ready.”
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