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.

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