Professional Basketball

Lynx hold off Wings to remain undefeated

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The Minnesota Lynx jumped out to an early 14-4 lead against the Dallas Wings Saturday night, which helped propel them to an 80-63 victory in front of 7,634 at Target Center to remain one of the WNBA’s two undefeated teams.

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Dallas Wings guard Karima Christmas scores a layup past Minnesota Lynx guard Jia Perkins during the first quarter of Saturday night’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III.

The Lynx extended their early lead to ten on a fast break reverse layup by forward Maya Moore with 5:55 remaining in the first quarter, when Dallas Wings head coach Fred Williams promptly called a timeout to regroup. When play resumed, the Wings steadily cut into the Lynx lead as guard Karima Christmas, who had scored her team’s first four points, added four more and was assisted by two points each by forward Aerial Powers and center Courtney Paris. When the first frame ended, Minnesota was up 18-12.

The Wings went on a small run in the beginning of the second quarter which culminated with forward Plenette Pierson’s cutting lay-up to pull within a single possession, 20-18, with 5:17 left in the quarter, forcing Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve to call the timeout.

Then the Lynx made a run of their own starting with a 15-foot jumper by center Janel McCarville and two free throws by guard Renee Montgomery after a Courtney Paris foul to extend the Lynx lead to 24-18 with 4:11 remaining in the half.

The home team went on another run as guard Seimone Augustus missed an 8-foot running jump shot which was rebounded by center Sylvia Fowles, who fed the outlet pass to forward Maya Moore for the 5-foot bank jump shot with 2:33 left on the clock. Both teams traded baskets and Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen, fouled by Pierson with 4.4 seconds left in the half, hit one of two free throws to give Minnesota the 36-29 advantage at the half.

The third quarter began with a 6-0 Minnesota run with two layups by Fowles and one by forward Rebekkah Brunson but the Wings kept their composure and again slowly chipped away at the deficit. Powers hit a three-point shot with 1:27 left in the quarter to pull the Wings to within two, 48-46.

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Dallas Wings forward Plenette Pierson drives baseline against Minnesota Lynx center Janel McCarville during the first quarter of Saturday night’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III.

Lynx forward Natasha Howard and Wings guard Karima Christmas were tied up after a Powers miss. After taking a few extra seconds for the officials to sort out the lineup on the jump ball, Montgomery grabbed the ball after the tip and raced the length of the court for an easy layup but didn’t get the shot off in time. The Lynx led 53-47 going into the final frame.

Reeve opted to put all five of her starters into the lineup to begin the fourth quarter and before long Minnesota held a commanding 15 point lead, 69-54 with 5:09 left in the game.

Time was running out for Dallas. This time, their attempt at a run left them 12 points behind on three different occasions, each time answered by a Minnesota basket. The Lynx again went on a

run, this time with their bench, as rookie forward Keisha Hampton added a three-pointer with 29.1 seconds left for the game’s final score, a 17-point Lynx victory.

Powers led all scorers with 20, a career-high, while Christmas added 15 and Pierson chipped in with 11 for the Wings. Fowles led the Lynx with 16 points with the remaining Lynx starters all in double-digits scoring. Paris and Brunson led their respective teams with 8 rebounds each.

“Unforced Turnovers. We just got careless with the ball. They were able to score some baskets off of our turnovers,” said Williams. “You know I thought the score didn’t dictate on how close the game was until the last four minutes of the game. Our players played hard and we’re playing through some injuries and a little short-handed, but the young ladies really gave a great effort tonight”

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Minnesota Lynx guard Jia Perkins gets bumped by Dallas Wings forward Plenette Pierson during the second quarter of Saturday night’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III.

Dallas was missing Skylar Diggins and Erin Phillips, due to injury, and Glory Johnson who was serving her suspension following her altercation with Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner prior to the start of the 2015 season. Johnson sat out the season for pregnancy, and is finishing her suspension at the start of the current season.

“We accomplished a couple of things,” said Reeve. “[Dallas] is a team that gets to the foul line a ton, they’re scoring 24 points – not shooting 24 free throws – but scoring 24 points a game from there. We had a really heightened awareness for that and they got to the line just eight times and that was even with a couple of bad calls. I thought [our] defense was really, really good.

Even with Minnesota’s dominance in the WNBA over the past six seasons, the Wings have been one of the few teams in recent years to match up well against the defending champions.

“I think anytime we put a team on the floor, we want them to give it their all until the final buzzer and [Minnesota’s] players know each other a lot. I think I’m about two players away from having a complete roster situation and in the meantime we have to play through one of the best teams in the league, if not the best team in the league,” said Williams.

Powers said, “We did a really good job of doing our assignment up until the fourth quarter. I feel like we played them tough. We sustained their runs and we made our own runs. We just couldn’t finish it out in the fourth quarter.”

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Dallas Wings forward Aerial Powers attempts to block a shot by Minnesota Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson during the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III.

Lynx guard Augustus knows that Dallas is a scrappy team. “This game was really funky. I don’t know, that’s the way Dallas plays, they’re very energetic,” she said. “They get after it and they make it a rough game – it’s not going to be pretty. We have to adapt to it and get it going. It took five minutes to get it going even in the first half.”

Whalen agreed. “Dallas is a really athletic, really talented team that puts you in a lot of different tough situations, so I credit our defense, credit our execution there in the fourth quarter,” she said.

Minnesota has now swiped 15 steals in three of its seven games this season, after coming up with more than 15 only three times in franchise history entering this season. The Lynx continue to lead the WNBA in steals with 11.43 steals-per-game after ranking 10th a year ago.

Dallas came into the game leading the league in offensive rebounding percentage at 33.5%, and led the league with 17.0 second-chance points per game. The Wings grabbed 12 offensive rebounds and outscored Minnesota 24-12 in second-chance points.

Minnesota (7-0) hosts the Phoenix Mercury (2-5) at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday, while Dallas (3-4) hosts the Washington Mystics (3-6) at 8:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday.

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