Professional Basketball

11-0 Lynx down Fever, break league record

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The Minnesota Lynx made history Tuesday night as they overpowered the visiting Indiana Fever 87-63 in front of 7,623 at Target Center to set a new league record for the longest unbeaten streak at the start of a WNBA season with an 11-0 record.

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Indiana Fever guard Briann January drives past Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen during the first quarter of Tuesday’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III.

The Lynx shot 71.4 percent on 10-14 shooting in the first quarter to set the tone of the game. After jumping out to a 4-0 lead in the first minute of the game, the teams drew to a 7-7 tie on a layup by Indiana forward Tamika Catchings with 6:21 left in the quarter.

After that it was all Lynx basketball. Minnesota jumped out to a lead as large as 12 points before ending the quarter with a ten point 25-15 lead. The Fever only muscled up 26.3 percent on 5-19 shooting during the frame.

“They did the same thing they did the first time. Once again our shots aren’t falling right now and that’s putting a lot of pressure on our defense,” said Catchings. “We’ve always been known for our defensive tenacity, but we are still trying to figure that out and figure out our identity as a team. We aren’t there yet.”

The second quarter fared no different for the visiting team as Minnesota jumped out to a 22 point lead when guard Jia Perkins hit a 23-foot three-pointer with 5:06 remaining in the half to give the Lynx a 43-21 advantage, and a 49-31 lead at the half.

“That was one thing we really focused on yesterday in practice – just defensively being there for each other and just playing as hard as we could,” said Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen. “Just sticking to our schemes, sticking to our game plan that coach wanted us to do and we just tried to do it to the best of our abilities. I thought that coach had a great game plan for us and we stuck to it and we did it as good as we could.”

Unlike the May 27 matchup between the two teams when Minnesota let a 24-point lead turn into a narrow four point victory, Minnesota did not let up in the third quarter.

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Minnesota Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson grabs a rebound over the outstretched arms of Indiana Fever forward Devereaux Peters during the first quarter of Tuesday’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III.

A Whalen 20-foot pull-up jumper just 1:10 into the quarter gave the Lynx a 20-point 51-31 advantage. A 16-6 Minnesota run which culminated in another Perkins three-pointer with 3:34 left in the quarter gave Minnesota a 28-point 65-37 lead, their largest of the night.

Both teams shot 50 percent during the third quarter but Minnesota had a 72-48 lead heading into the final frame.

“We know we have to shoot the ball better. It hasn’t been just this game. If you’re going to put yourself in a position to win in this league, it’s really difficult to put that much pressure on your defense when you don’t put the ball in the hole,” said Fever head coach Stephanie White.

Fever guard Tiffany Mitchell then tried to carry the team on her shoulders in making a comeback. She scored eight points on 2-for-4 shooting and two free throws during the fourth quarter but it wasn’t enough. When the final buzzer sounded, Minnesota pulled out the 87-63 win.

“We just missed easy shots we normally make and they just got out in transition pretty fast, so we just can’t be missing easy shots against a team like that,” said Mitchell. “We have very little room for error on defense. If you’re late on one rotation it’s an easy shot for them to knock down. We just have to clean that up.”

The 24-point victory margin was Minnesota’s largest ever in the series against Indiana, eclipsing their 96-74 triumph on June 7, 2009 at Indiana. The Lynx lead the all-time series 20-12.

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Indiana Fever forward Shenise Johnson attempts a layup against Minnesota Lynx guard Jia Perkins during the first quarter of Tuesday’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III.

Minnesota forward Maya Moore led all scorers with 16, while guard Seimone Augustus added 12 as five Lynx players reached double-digit scoring. Indiana was led by center Erlana Larkins 12 points with Mitchell adding 11 and Lynetta Kizer chipping in for 10.

“We just wanted to limit that for them. Last game they did a pretty good job of getting it to the paint against us and we wanted to try to come out of that and force them into some tougher things,” said Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson.

Larkins led all rebounders with nine, while Moore and Lynx center Sylvia Fowles each grabbed eight.

“Besides the addition of Sylvia Fowles, [Minnesota] has always been a pretty great team,” said White. “I think the level that they are playing, the consistency that they are playing and the depth that they have on their roster. Sometimes during their championships during their earlier years, their starters had to log a lot of minutes. Now that you have scorers coming off the bench in [Renee] Montgomery and like Jia Perkins plus someone who can anchor down the paint in someone like Sylvia, it gives them a different dimension.”

The win gives Minnesota a perfect 11-0 record in the standings, which is also the best start in league history. They broke the previous record of 10-0, also held by the Lynx in 2012. The league’s only other undefeated team, the Los Angeles Sparks, notched their 10th win last night with a 98-85 victory over the Chicago Sky on Tuesday night. The Lynx and Sparks will face each other for the first time this season on June 21.

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Indiana Fever forward Lynetta Kizer and Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles battle for a loose ball during the second quarter of Tuesday’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III.

“You know it’s more of the externally that people talk about those sorts of records and streaks. If you go in the locker room and ask any of them about [the record] they will say something like ‘ok cool,’” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. “They are really excited that our shell help was really good. That’s what makes this group so special. They aren’t caught up in those types of moments.”

Reeve added, “We had an outstanding practice yesterday, really focused and a hunger for what we were talking about with some of our shortcomings over the weekend. I like this mindset of wanting to do better.”

The game was Indiana’s first road game in a stretch that will find them playing eight out of the next ten games away from Banker’s Life Fieldhouse. The Fever (4-7) travels to the San Antonio Stars (2-7) for a 7 p.m. CT game on Friday.

Minnesota (11-0) travels to the Seattle Storm (4-7) for a 6 p.m. CT matchup on Sunday.

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