Lindsay Whalen didn’t score in double figures Thursday night. All four of the other Lynx starters did. Sylvia Fowles celebrated winning the WNBA MVP award with 25 points and four blocks. Rebekkah Brunson had a double-double. Maya Moore was throwing daggers down the stretch.
In a playoff game to remember, with the Lynx and Washington Mystics throwing punches and trading runs much of the night, it was Whalen who evoked memories of the past in a building where her retired college jersey hangs.
With the Lynx down two points with less than five minutes left in Game 2 of the league semifinals, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve put Whalen back in. Over the next 4:45 with Whalen driving, dishing, exhorting the Williams Arena crowd of 9,033 into a frenzy, the Lynx closed out the game on a 20-8 run to win 93-83 and take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series that resumes Sunday in Washington.
“Lindsay was unbelievable,” Reeve said. “She found a way to will our team. The 20 minutes she played tonight was vintage Lindsay Whalen. It was good to see in the Barn.”
It was good to see her in the Barn, again.
Unlike Tuesday’s one-sided affair, the Mystics came to play this time. Held to three points in Game 1, guard Kristi Toliver scored 25. So did Elena Delle Donne. The Mystics played with poise, leading by 10 after a quarter — while Whalen, with two fouls, mostly sat out. Washington was up three when the second half began. Down five entering the fourth, the Mystics rallied to lead by two with 4:45 left after Delle Donne’s three-pointer.
Fowles was a beast for the entire game, making 12 of 16 shots, grabbing nine rebounds, with four assists and four blocks. Brunson had 11 points and 10 rebounds while dogging Delle Donne all night. Reeve likes to refer to the Maya Moore roller coaster; up and down. But, after a hit-and-miss first three quarters, she scored 11 of her 22 points in the fourth.
She didn’t feel herself in Game 1, after the long layoff while her broken left hand healed. After Tuesday’s game she couldn’t sleep. Wednesday she felt exhausted.
“I couldn’t take a nap, couldn’t calm down,” she said. “So I had two glasses of wine last night, slept 9½ hours, woke up today and felt great. All day. Energy. There was something about today.”
With 4:17 left Fowles scored on a putback. Tie game. And then the Lynx defense took over. By now the clamps were on Toliver, who was 1-for-6 in the fourth and needed 23 shots for her 25 points. She missed a three and Moore scored while being fouled and made the free throw. Then, after a Mystics miss, Whalen drove the lane and scored and the Barn started coming unhinged.
“Wheezy played awesome,’’ Seimone Augustus said, using Whalen’s nickname. “She was making her Wheezy-type shots. The jellyroll, we call it, with those layups. Back in her element.”
Moore went end to end, putting Lynx up seven. Delle Donne scored, but Moore hit a three. Whalen drove, was fouled and made the free throws, then took a pass from Fowles, turned the corner and scored on a reverse, a jellyroll that put the Lynx up 10.
Game over. Whalen made all three of her fourth-quarter shots, and one of two free throws. For the game she played 20 minutes and she was exhausted. She was also a plus-21 with a game-high seven assists. Moore hit big shots. Fowles made big plays.
But, in the building where she played her college ball, Whalen pushed her team to a win.
Afterward, Fowles was on the podium talking with some wonder how 9,000-plus fans could make so much noise. Sitting next to her, Whalen smiled.
“You know why it’s loud, Syl,” Whalen asked. “It’s the Barn.”