DES MOINES – The final score wasn’t the important thing. Not for a preseason opener.
But here it is, anyway: Washington 90, Lynx 85.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve went into this exhibition at Wells Fargo Center primarily to get a feel how the team’s rebuilt bench would look, to get a look at others trying to make the team.
And, Reeve said, she liked more than she didn’t like.
Here is what she really didn’t like: Washington getting 14 unopposed drives for layups in the first half, which ended with the Lynx down 22. And the Lynx sending the Mystics to the free-throw line 47 times.
But here’s what the Lynx coach did like: The dimension Danielle Robinson brings to the team and the tandem, off the bench, she thinks Robinson and Tanisha Wright will be.
With Washington coach Mike Thibault playing his starters quite a bit in the first half — and with Reeve playing nearly everyone on her bench — the Mystics grew a big early lead. With the Lynx starters playing more, the Lynx used a 25-11 third quarter to draw within eight. The Lynx got as close as two on Jill Barta’s three-pointer with 14.7 seconds left in the game.
Reeve did not want to play her starters too much, which is why Rebekkah Brunson played just over three minutes, why Sylvia Fowles was the only opening day starter to break the 20-minute barrier and why Lindsay Whalen (11 points) was the only starter in double figures.
As for the reserves, Robinson came as advertised, with her quickness visibly changing the team’s pace of play when she was on the court. She scored 18 points in 22 minutes, hitting 5 of 10 shots. Leading a group of backups in the fourth quarter, she scored 12 points.
“And she had even more opportunities,” Reeve said. “She was 5-for-10 and missed three layups. We’re talking to her about getting to the rim, hard finishes. She’s capable.”
Her ability to get into the lane got her to the free-throw line eight times. She had two assists and a steal.
“I felt great,” Robinson said. “I feel I was able to play at my pace, which is what we’ve been working on. And I felt I finished better in the second half than I did in the first.”
Wright? This was an important couple days for her. She hasn’t played competitive basketball for more than a year, so this weekend was important. The Lynx and Mystics practiced and scrimmaged together here Saturday, then played each other Sunday. For Wright, it was a good chance to knock off some rust.
Wright scored eight points with four rebounds and four assists in nearly 26 minutes. The defense — her calling card — was there from the start.
“I’m still rusty,” Wright said. “I haven’t played in a year, almost a year and a half. But I’m working my way through it.”
Said Reeve: “It was an important weekend for her, just to be on the court, hearing whistles, getting back into the flow of the game. Her energy was there, her defense.”
Lynetta Kizer, signed during the offseason to be a big off the bench, scored six points with six rebounds and three assists in 18-plus minutes. Second-year center Temi Fagbenle, playing only days after returning from Europe, finished with eight points and had four rebounds.
“We had a mind-set where we weren’t going to play key players much in the first half, and they did,” Reeve said. “So we got off to a bad energy level. They played much harder through the first half. In the third quarter, we took a different approach.”