Tuesday night, the Minnesota Lynx put on a shooting clinic, drowning the visiting Washington Mystics with wet jumpers en route to a convincing 101-81 victory in Game 1 of the WNBA semifinals.
There wasn’t much to cheer about for Mystics fans, especially after the second quarter. An exasperated Mike Thibault evaluated his group’s performance after the game.
“We got bombarded,” Thibault said.
“I thought we started out well and that we were prepared. But they had an edge to them… and I thought that we played a little bit on our heels after the first seven minutes and we paid for it.”
The team is now 0-4 against the three-time WNBA champs this season. Ahead of Thursday night’s Game 2 matchup, Washington must do two things if they want to even the five-game series.
1) Pressure the ball
Sylvia Fowles had her way with the Mystics defense, especially in the first half, scoring 16 of her 18 points in the first two quarters. Despite throwing double and triple teams at her, she still managed to put up nine points and grab five boards in the opening quarter.
When the defense found some success suffocating Fowles, she’d kick it out to her deadly shooters.
Seimone Augustus was unconscious, scoring a game-high 24 points on 11 of 17 shooting. Guard Renee Montgomery poured in 18 off the bench, including 4 of 5 from deep.
One way to negate the Lynx efficiency is through ball pressure and disrupting the timing of the offense. The Mystics collected just four steals in Game 1 and forced just eight turnovers.
Minnesota took care of the ball and got to their sweet spots.
In Game 2, Washington guards and forwards have to work together to pressure the ball handlers and deny Fowles and Augustus from getting to their spots on the floor. They’ll also have to find a healthy balance of doubling Fowles, while aggressively rotating to close out on open shooters.
That equation will make it tougher for the home team to rip off consecutive points in front of the boisterous bunch inside “The Barn.”
2) Weather the storm
On Tuesday night, Minnesota went through stretches where everything seemed to drop and had five players finish the game with a true shooting percentage of 70 or better.
Fowles set the tone early, followed by Augustus who scored 8 points in the second quarter as part of a stretch where the team hit 10 straight shots to close the half. They led 53-38 heading into the third quarter and picked up where they left off as the team came out of the locker room. Minnesota started the third with an 11-4 run that stretched the lead to 64-42.
Somebody wearing red on Thursday night has to step up for Washington when these runs happen (and they will happen). Whether it’s Meesseman, Delle Donne or guard Kristi Tolliver, who scored just three points after a record-breaking 32-point performance against the New York Liberty last week.
Veteran guard Ivory Latta scored 10 points in just 14 minutes in Game 1. Thibault might be well served to play her more if other teammates aren’t answering the championship intensity Minnesota displays.
Game 2 starts at 8 p.m. on ESPN 2.