LAS VEGAS – If the Lynx are going to successfully defend their WNBA title, coach Cheryl Reeve knows her team must duplicate its play from Thursday night.
Using a balanced effort at both ends of the court, the Lynx clinched their eighth consecutive playoff appearance — the longest active streak in the WNBA — by defeating the Las Vegas Aces 89-73 at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
The four-time WNBA champions enter the 2018 playoffs with the highest winning percentage (.683) in league playoff history. The Lynx are currently in sixth place with four games to play.
“That toughness we just played with right there, if we’re in a playoff game, that’s exactly what we need,” Reeve said. “I do like what we’re showing the last couple of games.”
Maya Moore, who was averaging 17.8 points per game, led the Lynx (17-13) with 34 points. She has a combined 65 points in her past two contests. Before that, she had just 30 points total in three games.
Sylvia Fowles had her league-high 19th double-double with 10 points and 19 rebounds. Her 11 defensive rebounds over the first 20 minutes set a franchise records for the most in any half. Tanisha Wright came off the bench to score a season-high 16 points for the Lynx.
“It’s something we don’t take for granted,” Moore said of clinching. “It doesn’t just happen, especially in a season like this when the race is so close and everybody’s been competing so hard to get one step closer to our goal. We have a clear understanding of when we do certain things, and we’re locked in together, it’s really fun to play and it’s really hard to beat us.”
The win also marked Reeve’s 212th career victory, surpassing Van Chancellor (211) for the most wins with a single franchise. He coached the defunct Houston Comets from 1997 to 2006.
One concern for the Lynx: With 5:59 left in the first half, starting point guard Danielle Robinson went out because of an ankle injury. She did not return. Lindsay Whalen did not play for the second game in a row.
Wright moved into the point-guard role and, in addition to her 16 points, added six assists and seven rebounds. Rebekkah Brunson also missed her second game in a row after injuring her nose during Sunday's loss to Atlanta.
In sending Las Vegas to its fifth consecutive defeat, the Lynx held the Aces to 37.5 percent from the floor (24 of 64) and a paltry 5-for-14 (35.7) from three-point range. A’ja Wilson led the Aces with 18 points, while Tamera Young added 16.
Said Wright: “As long as we come out and we’re really focused and laser sharp on what the gameplan is … then we put ourselves in really, really good positions night in and night out.”
The Aces (12-18) got within 73-65 in the fourth quarter. But the Lynx used an 8-0 run, capped by Moore’s fifth three-pointer of the night, to silence the announced 4,497 fans and pull away for good.
The Lynx have beaten Las Vegas — which relocated from San Antonio before this season — in 20 of 22 meetings.