Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Lynx bench tells Mystics to "sit down"


The Minnesota Lynx are now one game away from clinching home-court advantage throughout the playoffs after beating the Washington Mystics 73-56 Tuesday night at Target Center.

Getting some help with Atlanta beating Indiana, one more Minnesota win or Indiana loss would officially give Minnesota the first overall playoff seed.

"We've done a good job of enjoying the small victories and turning back around and getting re-focused," said Lynx forward Maya Moore.

All 11 Minnesota (24-6) players scored, as bench production was pivotal for creating another runaway victory, scoring 29 points against Washington's (5-24) 14.

"They want to do well. When they know they do well, they play more," said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.

Although Lindsay Whalen exploded in the first half, making her first nine shots, Lynx turnovers and Mystics rebounding kept the game close midway through the third quarter. In that stretch, Minnesota's bench was blanked with the limited minutes they received.

With 5:44 left in the third and Minnesota leading 40-39, Monica Wright nailed a 22-foot three-pointer to spark a 13-0 run and the contest was never in doubt.

"We never want to be blanked. There's something inside yourself that you have to bring out when you're not doing so well," said Lynx reserve center Jessica Adair, who scored double-figures for the first time in her career with 10.

Adair, playing more minutes as she grows more comfortable with her leaner, quicker body, is less concerned about getting in foul trouble and more focused on contributing offensively.

"It's making all my free throws, making contested lay-ups," she said.

Whalen scored a game-high 21 points, finishing 10-of-12 from the floor.

"I was trying to be aggressive, get off the pick and roll, get in the lane," she said.

Mystics forward Crystal Langhorne scored 13 points with guard Matee Ajavon struggling to reach 10, making just four of 15 field goals.

Washington, eliminated from playoff contention some time ago, laid out a warning to any playoff opponent the Lynx get.

"Very hard-nosed, blue-collar workers. I think they'll get the job done," Ajavon said about Minnesota's playoff push.

Perhaps they understand the most out of any team. The Mystics traded their 2012 first-round pick for the Lynx's Nicky Anosike prior to this year's draft, meaning the Lynx will once again get to take part in the draft lottery to bolster a team already feared by opponents.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lynx season now "a kind of magic"


The Minnesota Lynx added a few more firsts in their 2011 campaign against the Los Angeles Sparks Saturday night at Target Center.

Minnesota's 87-68 win gave them the privilege of being the first WNBA team to reach 20 wins this season and, more importantly, the first team to clinch a playoff spot.

"It couldn't get no worse than where we were at," said Lynx guard Seimone Augustus, referring to the franchise's struggles in her first five seasons. "A weight lifted off our shoulders."

Not that the Lynx felt weighed down leading up to a playoff berth. Clinching a spot has simply been a step all season in the team's ultimate goal of leaving their past behind and winning a WNBA title.

"We have that fire inside of us and we still got some work to do," Augustus said.

The Sparks (10-15) were the more energetic team in the first quarter, taking a 20-14 lead with Candace Parker racking up 10 points in the period.

The Lynx (20-6) communicated to their fans that they had control in the second, starting the quarter with three treys, ultimately taking the lead for good at 23-22 following a Maya Moore 21-foot three-pointer. Minnesota outscored Los Angeles 32-14 in the second and never let up on their way to their fourth straight win over Los Angeles after losing eight in a row.

"Yesterday, I came in the gym and shot 500 mid-range and 500 three-pointers," said Lynx guard Candice Wiggins. "You come in the game and just concentrate and that's going to help."

Augustus led Minnesota with 17 points, with Wiggins chipping in 13. Parker scored a game-high 18 points, although a more stingy Lynx defense would frustrate Parker after the first.

For good measure, the Lynx out-rebounded the Sparks 43-24 for the game.

While the magic number to reach the playoffs is now zero, the Lynx are seeking the magic number they wanted from the start of the season: home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Minnesota is two games ahead of Indiana for the league's best record with eight games remaining for both teams. A combination of seven Lynx wins or Fever losses would cement home-court through the Finals.

"That's when you'll see the locker room excited. To go from second-worst to first, that's when we will celebrate for a short moment," said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. "Then you're measured by what you do in the playoffs."

Perhaps the biggest "magic number" of all is Minnesota's win total. In all but one of the WNBA's first 14 seasons, every championship team recorded at least 20 victories in the regular season. The Houston Comets were the only exception finishing 18-10 in 1997 before winning the first of four straight titles.

Maya Moore, who scored seven points in only 16:22 of playing time, may have acknowledged her battle to find consistency with her belief that Minnesota can go far beyond 20 wins.

"That's the scary part. We're continuing to sharpen up on help-side defense, continuing to communicate, making sure we're forcing players to do things they don't want to do," she said.


Watch below for special guest interviewer Lisl Von Steinbergs chat with Rebekkah Brunson on the development of Minnesota's young post player tandem of Jessica Adair and Amber Harris.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Pokey Chatman's living LSU legacy

A standout player herself at Louisiana State University, Pokey Chatman assumed the head coaching helm at LSU in 2004 in place of an ailing Sue Gunter. Although her tenure lasted three seasons, Chatman fielded a program that would qualify to four consecutive NCAA Women's Final Fours. Two of her proteges are now franchise players in the WNBA: Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles.

Augustus' prolific scoring earned her Rookie of the Year honors in 2006, making three All-Star Game appearances while tying Diana Taurasi for scoring 3,000 career points in the fewest games. Fowles has made three straight All-Star Game appearances, earning MVP honors in 2010. Fowles is currently on pace to average a double-double for the first time in her career this season, as well as averaging 20 points per game for the first time this year.

Learn more about Chatman's composition of chemistry that commenced when Augustus and Fowles first wore their LSU uniforms by watching the video package.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lynx "shock" magic number to 4


The Minnesota Lynx proved Sunday night at Target Center that a lack of satisfaction following a 28-point victory is indeed possible.

Minnesota won by that margin over the Tulsa Shock with a score of 82-54, as they matched their franchise record for most wins in a season and lowered the magic number of clinching a playoff spot to four.

"We weren't great, but we were solid," said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. "As we move down the stretch, we want to take it up a notch."

Minnesota's (18-5) win also placed Tulsa (1-22) in WNBA history by giving them their 17th straight loss, tying the league record set by Atlanta in its inaugural campaign of 2008.

No player scored more than 16 points and only two broke double-figures for the game, both coming from Minnesota. The Lynx guard tandem of Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen put up 16 and 12 points respectively, with Whalen adding nine assists.

Sheryl Swoopes led Tulsa with nine points, but her team had trouble finding rhythm between their field goal percentage of 34, committing 20 turnovers and struggling mightily in a deliberate offense against a Minnesota team feared for their up-tempo transition game.

Although the Lynx believed they fell short of perfection, their dominant performance tonight temporarily alleviated the concern about stamina among the starters. Whalen played the most with 26:50 on the floor, with all four main reserves getting healthy doses of minutes. Backup center Jessica Adair took advantage of her extended time by posting a career-high nine points, adding two blocks.

"We're not in rest mode. If the bench isn't performing, I'm OK with giving Rebekkah (Brunson) and Taj (McWilliams-Franklin) 32 minutes, if I have to, to get the win," Reeve said. "Our bench deserves more minutes, and when they come in and perform, then it gives me an opportunity to get the minutes down."

Minnesota's win, coupled with a San Antonio loss to Chicago, gives them a five-game lead over San Antonio and Phoenix for first place in the Western Conference. The Lynx hold complete control of their destiny regarding playoff seeding, as there are not enough games left in the series between San Antonio or Phoenix for either team to catch them in head-to-head matches.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lynx "bench" Sky on the road


Minnesota Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve did not get flustered with her bench after they were blanked in an 85-80 loss to Phoenix on Tuesday.

In another highlight of Minnesota’s chemistry, Reeve discussed what happened with the reserves and credited their focus that led to a 79-76 win over the Chicago Sky at Allstate Arena Friday night.

Minnesota (17-5) outscored Chicago (10-14) 30-11 from the bench, including 12 points and seven rebounds from three-point specialist Candice Wiggins, six points and five rebounds from rookie Amber Harris and six points and four blocks from second-year center Jessica Adair, who bested her previous career high in blocks.

“I give Amber a lot of credit. It was a great size situation where she matched up well, and I thought she made the most of her opportunity,” Reeve said.

“We didn’t start off the game with the defensive effort that we needed,” said Lynx rookie forward Maya Moore. “The bench did a great of making up for that and hit some big shots.”

Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen finished as the team’s high scorer, with 16 points and six assists. Sky center Sylvia Fowles led all players in scoring and rebounds, getting 28 and 13 respectively for her 14th double-double this season.

“I have to credit my teammates. (Courtney) Vandersloot got me a lot in transition. I can definitely see myself getting better,” Fowles said.

The Lynx were sluggish to start, trailing 17-7 midway through the first quarter against a team whose record is somewhat deceiving. Minnesota ended the quarter on a 15-2 run boosted by Monica Wright’s return to form in her second game back after missing five games because of a family emergency. Wiggins and Adair also pitched in offensively.

A Rebekkah Brunson jumper late in the fourth gave the impression that Minnesota locked up the outcome with the score at 78-70, but Chicago took advantage of miscues, including a Maya Moore turnover off an inbounds pass, to reel the margin to 78-76 with 38.9 seconds left. The 6,289 in attendance would have their pulse sent through the sky in those final seconds.

Vandersloot had an open Fowles in transition, but overthrew her 6’6” frame to send the ball out-of-bounds. The Sky played foul-and-chase with the Lynx’s Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who missed two free throws with 9.2 seconds left, giving the Sky another chance.

Shay Murphy missed a point-blank lay-up with 2.9 seconds left, and McWilliams-Franklin went back to the free throw line after getting the rebound. She made only one of two that time with 0.9 seconds to go, but Tamera Young’s half-court heave at the buzzer was too high.

“Shay had a good look. She made something out of nothing. I saw a foul. I asked the ref. He said there wasn’t one,” Young said, who scored 16 points. “That’s how the game goes. We have to adjust from it.”

Ironically, all four of Minnesota’s reserves who got playing time finished with positive plus/minus ratings for the game, contrasting with negative ratings for all five starters. Minnesota doubled up Chicago 16-8 in second chance points, utilizing the 42-32 rebounding edge for the game.

Fowles sees her Sky team gelling under first-year head coach Pokey Chatman and her new system, but with Chicago battling Atlanta for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 10 games remaining, Fowles said the Sky need to reflect the urgency.

“We got away from a couple things for those last two minutes, and it nipped us in the butt,” she said. “This game proved a lot that we can do going forward.”

Minnesota continues to move forward as well, with Friday’s win ending six straight losing seasons for the franchise. Should the Lynx beat Tulsa Sunday at Target Center, they will match their franchise record for most wins in a season. However, Minnesota remains content to leave history in the past.

“This team embraced 2011, making that a really special season. Nothing else has mattered to them,” Reeve said.

After Friday’s games, the magic number for the Lynx to clinch their first playoff berth since 2004 dropped to five. The number represents the combination of Lynx victories and losses from the Los Angeles Sparks where the Sparks could not usurp the Lynx in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Minnesota Lynx prowl catwalk for breast health awareness


Even in the most grueling stretch of their schedule, the Minnesota Lynx refuse to end the hunt to promote breast health awareness.

Following their Thursday victory over the San Antonio Silver Stars, the Lynx traveled to Mall of America's Nordstrom Court in Bloomington Friday for the team's third annual Catwalk for a Cure. Part of the WNBA's Breast Health Awareness Week, the fashion show raises money for the Minnesota Lynx Foundation, who in turn  send a donation to local breast cancer charities.

Participating players modeled two designs, which included a few outfits created by Lynx center Taj McWilliams-Franklin. The Lynx coaching staff also donned looks, with Lynx players in a state of wonderful surprise when head coach Cheryl Reeve hit the runway in her sole outfit of the evening.

Highlighting the fashion show was a surprise appearance by Charde Houston's mother, Dorothy Green. A breast cancer survivor, Green spoke of her journey in both English and American Sign Language to illustrate breast cancer's lack of discrimination among its targets.

Watch the video below to hear from Lynx guard Candice Wiggins, all the outfits modeled and Green's motivational speech.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Mama" Taj parents 2nd Lynx buzzer-beater of week


In a perfect world, the defense exhibited by the San Antonio Silver Stars Thursday night against the Minnesota Lynx at Target Center would have meant a Stars victory.

Rookie forward Maya Moore failed to score, missing all seven of her shots. Guards Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen, among the league's top guards in field goal percentage, were a combined 6-of-26 from the floor. Minnesota converted 27.5 percent of their shots for the game.

Somehow, the Lynx found themselves on the winning end of a 62-60 game against the Silver Stars, as center Taj McWilliams-Franklin banked the game-winning 18-foot jumper with 1.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Not a bad time for Whalen to pick up her sixth and final assist of the game.

"I'm so slow, I was wide open. Everybody else went to Lindsay when she drove baseline. I'm sure she saw me, but it tipped Rebekkah (Brunson's) hand and it came straight to me," McWilliams-Franklin said.

The game-winner gave McWilliams-Franklin a season-high 18 points, marking her sixth straight game in double-figures. Reaching that score required some coaxing after McWilliams-Franklin committed five first quarter turnovers.

"All those turnovers in the first quarter? I was told to shoot. Rather than get in trouble and get yelled at, I'd rather shoot it," she said.

The Silver Stars (11-8) were unable to capitalize on the Lynx's (15-4) shooting struggles, making 38 percent of their shots. San Antonio never led by more than eight, and let a 23-17 halftime lead slip in the third, when Minnesota scored 26 points in the quarter.

Silver Stars guard Jia Perkins helped keep the game close, scoring all 11 of her points in the fourth, including three free throws after being fouled by Augustus with 11.2 seconds left.

San Antonio did have one last chance with an in-bound from half-court following a timeout call, but Moore disrupted a Perkins three-point attempt as the buzzer sounded.

"This is two great teams going at each other's heads. We got to put this in the back of our memory zone and get ready for Tulsa," Perkins said.

For San Antonio, Sophia Young finished with a double-double, getting 18 points and 13 rebounds while Becky Hammon added 15 points.

"Losing games like this is almost deflating. There's two good teams going at each other. You can tell, because it's coming down to the last-second shot," Young said.

Backup guard Candice Wiggins pitched in for Minnesota, scoring 15 points on five-three pointers. All but one of Wiggins' field goals in the last four games are from beyond the arc. The habit is hard to give up when she first grew confident with three-pointers at age eight.

"Strategically, we were down in that game, so I was like 'let's get some three-balls going,' " Wiggins said.

The Lynx did edge the Silver Stars in free throws, sinking 19 of 24 to the Silver Stars' 12 of 16. Minnesota also won the turnover category, committing 10 while forcing 15 against San Antonio.

Including Whalen's buzzer-beater to cap a 70-69 win at San Antonio Sunday, Minnesota has won the first two meetings of the series by a combined 2.8 seconds.

"You can't say this is what we meant to do. Thank goodness luck had a little choice in it for us," McWilliams-Franklin said.

Minnesota's victory increased their franchise-record winning streak to eight games. They now hold a commanding 4-game lead in the Western Conference, as San Antonio's loss created a three-way tie for second place with Phoenix and Seattle.


Watch this video for Mike Peden's pregame chat with San Antonio's Tully Bevilaqua

Click play here for Mike Peden's one-on-one with Becky Hammon, named among the WNBA's top 15 players of all time at this year's All-Star Game.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Lynx fourth quarter defense prevents Mercury rise


To use an old adage, this is not your mother's Minnesota Lynx.

After a neck-and-neck ordeal through the first three quarters with the Phoenix Mercury Tuesday night at Target Center, the Lynx pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 90-73 win, marking their franchise record seventh straight victory. The Lynx (14-4) outscored the Mercury (11-8) 23-11 in the final period.

"Our defense fell off. They built a lot of momentum. I don't think we were able to match their energy on either end of the floor," said Mercury forward Candice Dupree.

Credit for Minnesota's win easily goes to their defense, forcing 19 points off 16 Phoenix turnovers while giving up nine points off 10 turnovers. The Lynx even out-shot the Mercury from three-point range, banking eight of 17 attempts while holding the Mercury to four of 10 behind the arc.

Rookie forward Maya Moore sank the first five of Minnesota's threes en route to a game-high 22 points, despite scoring only three points in the second half.

"If you go top 15 in 15 games, she would have made it," said Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi, selected to the WNBA's 15 greatest players of all-time at this year's All-Star Game.

Minnesota guard Seimone Augustus added 21, leaving her 50 points away from 3,000 in her career. Augustus still has a legitimate chance of beating Cynthia Cooper for the fastest to 3,000 if she scores 50 or more in the next two games.

Although she was named Western Conference Player of the Month for July, Augustus is no less excited to still watch her teammates excel at their positions.

"I wouldn't be able to score the points or do the things that I do without them," she said.

The most exciting sequence for the 7,126 in attendance came in the final minutes of the fourth. Backup center Jessica Adair blocked three shots in the final 3:06, including a Diana Taurasi lay-up attempt on the left side that energized the crowd.

While her blocks may have increased the value of her jersey at a charity auction (the Lynx wore pink for the WNBA's Breast Health Awareness Week, Adair's sold for $750), Adair is simply following her personal goal of improving in every game.

"The block was awesome! It didn't win the game, but it was a great addition," she said.

Starting center Taj McWilliams-Franklin recorded her first double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds. While her acquisition in the off-season was marketed as adding a "pseudo-coach" to the roster, McWilliams-Franklin has scored double-figures in her last five games, averaging 12.8 points.

"I can always hit the 15 to 17-footer. That's how Cheryl Reeve knows me. That's how I won a title in Detroit," she said. "(Reeve) has to tell me, 'That's your shot, stop passing it up!' I shoot when I'm open or I shoot when I'm yelled at. Either one is good for me."

Taurasi led Phoenix with 20 points, although early foul trouble limited her time on the floor in the first half. Dupree, Penny Taylor and Marie Ferdinand-Harris chipped in 11.

The series between Minnesota and Phoenix has a different flavor this season. Before the season started, Phoenix was 12-6 against the Minnesota going back to 2006 thanks to their potent offense. The Lynx hold a 2-1 edge in this year's series, showcasing their offensive capabilities in the first two games and their defensive prowess Tuesday night.

"It's not as easy as it was in years past. We have to find a way to contain a couple of their major threats and make other people score," Dupree said.

Minnesota's victory, coupled with a San Antonio loss at Seattle on Tuesday, increased their lead in the Western Conference to three games. Minnesota can increase their clamp directly on Thursday, when they host San Antonio at Target Center.


Click play below for a one-on-one interview with the Mercury's Penny Taylor, who talks about her 10 years of service to the WNBA and the league's influence in her native country of Australia.

Programs available for DVD purchase

Autism Part 1 DVD cover

Autism: The Wall That Knows No Limits - Award-winning documentary series providing insights on autism rarely seen in contemporary media. Produced by someone on the spectrum, this series is a wealth of information for anyone seeking to learn about autism.
$15 for one episode, $50 for the complete series (4 episodes)

What Are You DVD cover

What Are You? A Dialogue on Mixed Race - Originally a school assignment, this one-hour documentary explores a population that existed for many years but didn't get much focus until recently. This program examines how a small but growing segment of the population could shift racial and cultural identity. Screened at the 2009 Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival and will be screened at the inaugural Critical Mixed Race Studies conference at DePaul University. $15

Vices to Verses promo

From Vices to Verses: Featuring Voices Merging - From Vices to Verses: A New Era of Hip Hop and Action is a biannual conference held at the University of Minnesota. The goal is to promote the culture and history of hip-hop, which is often lost in the corporate mainstream representation. In this program, you'll see how the Voices Merging student group absorbed what they witnessed and how their experience will transform them as a group and as individuals. DVD copies come with 14 minutes of bonus footage not seen online or on TV. $15

Machine 2010 highlight promo

Minnesota Machine: 2010 - Geared for Greatness - Join the professional women's football team in their historic 2nd season. Despite several injuries that depleted the roster, the Machine finished 2010 with a 6-3 record and their first division title in franchise history, edging the Iowa Thunder in the Midwest Division of the American Conference. This highlight reel includes clips from the 2010 season and their interview on the cable television show Rollin' and Tumblin' - $15


Silhouettes by RZI Couture - The inaugural breast cancer benefit fashion premiere took place in St. Paul and was met with a fabulous response. All the models were breast cancer survivors or relatives of someone affected by breast cancer and all the clothing was designed by Rosalyn Smaller, owner of RZI Couture and currently fighting breast cancer herself. The TV version features testimonials from the models and co-host Miss Georgia of KMOJ. $10 of every purchase will be donated to RZI Couture to help the breast cancer fight! $15