Overwhelming applause from an announced sellout crowd failed to distract Lindsay Whalen. The Lynx point guard ignored the standing ovation and flashed the set play to her teammates waiting down court.
It didn't matter much to Whalen that she had just become the franchise's all-time assist leader. Assist No. 497 was just another pass in her team's 17th victory of the season Sunday night, an 83-59 decision over the Tulsa Shock at Target Center.
Especially since the game held playoff implications.
The game was tougher than expected, but with the victory over the league's last-place team the Lynx punched their postseason ticket, clinching a playoff spot.
Feeding off Whalen, Maya Moore led the way with 22 points. Seimone Augustus scored 14.
"I never thought about any of it," Whalen said before she broke the record. "You never think about stats too much. But it feels great, 'cause with assists you're helping the team out and that's my main job; making sure everyone is getting involved. I've always taken a lot of pride in assists and trying to make my teammates better as well as make myself better. "
Whalen wasn't even aware she was near the record until she read it on Twitter on Saturday. Focused on helping her team get back to top form after a month off, the record fell into her lap. She had her second-best assist night of the season (nine) in Friday's victory over Washington, but Saturday's record-breaking night (four assists) didn't come so easy.
A pesky Tulsa lineup wouldn't lie down for the WNBA's best team, frustrating Whalen and her teammates through three quarters.
Behind Glory Johnson's 17 points and the speed of guards Temeka Johnson and Ivory Latta, Tulsa had Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve out of her seat and fired up. Just moments after Erin Thorn was called for a technical foul on the bench late in the first half, Reeve picked up another technical foul.
"It was very challenging for our guards to get back on a play," Reeve said in reference to the Shock's speed. "But once we started contesting shots we had a much better second half."
Whalen scored nine of the team's first 16 points and finished with 15. However, just as she and Augustus went to the bench midway through the first quarter, Tulsa changed the momentum and eventually grabbed the lead early in the second quarter.
But the record-breaking assist changed it all.
It wasn't a one-armed pass from midcourt to under the basket or even on the run, just a simple dish near the perimeter to an open Taj McWilliams-Franklin. But it was a perfect example of what put the point guard in position to set a franchise record in only her third season (88 games) in Minnesota.
A 25-7 fourth quarter secured the victory.
"Her strength and her drive pushes her to do amazing things," McWilliams-Franklin said of Whalen.
Poise, smooth, relaxed, were words McWilliams-Franklin used to describe her point guard's success. It was only fitting the record-breaking assist landed in the center's hands. She has received handouts from Whalen since the assist leader's rookie year in Connecticut. Nine years later, Whalen is fourth on the WNBA's all-time assist list, and Reeve believes she is on her way to the top.
"In my career, she is certainly if not at the top [of best point guards], very near the top," Reeve said. "I think she's the only one the league that can do what she does."