Reserve always gives it her best shot

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 23, 2011 - 8:26 AM

Overcoming her injury problems of a year ago, Candice Wiggins is back to being a dangerous outside shooter off the bench for the Lynx.

On Aug. 9, the Lynx bench played pathetically in an 85-80 loss at Phoenix. Five reserves went scoreless and committed five turnovers. The subs were a combined 0-for-11 shooting.

"That seems like such a long time ago," said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, who expressed her frustration to those players. "I've got to make sure I update them since that time how well they have done."

The Lynx are 4-1 since the Phoenix loss and their bench has averaged 28.2 points in those games.

The reserves have played well, especially Candice Wiggins.

"[Wiggins] plays with a great deal of energy," Reeve said, "so she is going to impact the game as soon as she comes in, whether it is her ball pressure on defense [or] we are going to run a play for her."

Since the loss to the Mercury, Wiggins is averaging 8.8 points and the Lynx are 4-1. After clinching a playoff spot Saturday, they play at Tulsa on Tuesday, hoping to avoid a letdown against the one-victory Shock.

Wiggins made four three-pointers Saturday as the Lynx beat Los Angeles 87-68 at Target Center. Threes on consecutive possessions at the start of the second quarter cut the Sparks' early 10-point lead to two. The fourth-year guard finished with 13 points, her highest total since scoring 16 on July 29.

"That was a huge lift for us, [Wiggins] making those threes," point guard Lindsay Whalen said. "It turned the tide."

Wiggins is shooting 41.2 percent fom three-point range this season. She has made at least four threes in a game five times.

"Candice puts the time in," Reeve said. "Friday, we were pretty tired and got back from a [two-game] road trip. She came in here and she shot 1,000 shots. She senses her importance to the team."

Her teammates, given the day off by Reeve, mostly went home to rest. But Wiggins took 1,002 shots at the Lynx practice gym -- half from midrange, half from behind the arc -- and made 856.

"I told the coach I wanted to be a really reliable shooter," Wiggins said, "and I'm going to do it every off day."

She was the WNBA's Sixth Player of the Year as a rookie in 2008, when she averaged 15.7 points. She was a starter the next season, but her average dropped to 13.1. Last season, she played only eight games because of arthroscopic knee surgery during training camp and a ruptured Achilles' tendon at midseason.

"I am way smarter than when I was a rookie, just understanding [the WNBA]," Wiggins said. "I am really proud of where I have come."

Wiggins is also one of the most popular Lynx players, always available for media interviews and appearances. And always flashing a smile when she makes a three.

"You've got to live for the moment," Wiggins said. "I love the game so much. I just want everyone to see that."

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