Lynx make stops, avert a Shock upset

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 1, 2012 - 12:02 AM

After a slow and frustrating start, they flexed their defensive muscle to beat Tulsa for the 11th consecutive time. Three Lynx scored 19 points.

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With the Lynx finally pulling away from Tulsa early in the fourth quarter Friday, Candice Wiggins clapped her hands together as she headed to the bench following a Shock timeout.

"Defense! Defense! Defense!" she shouted while smiling at her teammates, reinforcing just how the Lynx had turned what threatened to be an ugly loss into yet another victory over Tulsa.

The glares of Lindsay Whalen and head coach Cheryl Reeve -- many directed at officials as a frustrating first half wore on -- might have helped wake up the Lynx, but it was a second-half commitment to getting stops that fueled Minnesota's 92-83 victory.

"Defense," center Taj McWilliams-Franklin said, echoing what Wiggins had shouted on the court when asked post-game what turned the game around. "Getting it done on defense. Making stops and trusting our defense more. ... Helping each other, getting deflections, rebounds and running."

The Lynx trailed 56-48 at halftime but cut their points allowed in half and then some after the break to win their eighth consecutive game overall and their 11th in a row against Tulsa. Five of those against the Shock have come this season, helping the Lynx build the WNBA's best record at 21-4, but this one did not come easily.

Minnesota watched the Shock shoot 60.5 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes. While Tulsa came in just 6-19 overall, it was 3-1 in its past four games -- including a Thursday victory over Western Conference contender Los Angeles.

As such, the first-half surge from the Shock did not surprise Reeve, even if it didn't exactly thrill her. She spent much of her early time either spinning away with disdain after defensive lapses or teetering on the brink of picking up a second technical after arguing her way into the first one.

"I think the Tulsa Shock are playing better than at least half the teams in our league," Reeve said. "I was a little bit disappointed that we were getting outplayed in terms of our effort."

Said Rebekkah Brunson, who recorded her fourth consecutive double-double (19 points, 11 rebounds) and helped the Lynx to a 44-25 rebounding edge: "We knew this was a team that was playing very well and wasn't going to hand us anything. ... We had to pick up our intensity defensively."

That's what happened. Minnesota forced four turnovers in the first three minutes of the third quarter, sparking an 11-0 run capped by a Seimone Augustus three-pointer that put the Lynx up 57-56, its first lead since late in the first quarter.

Another Augustus three-pointer started a 17-2 run spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth, giving Minnesota an 83-67 lead that finally let the Lynx relax.

Shock guards Ivory Latta and Riquna Williams -- listed at 5-6 and 5-7 respectively -- combined for 30 points in the first half thanks to hot shooting and a series of ultra-quick drives. But the duo had just 10 points after the break, reflective of a Tulsa offense that cooled down to 37.9 percent shooting in the second half.

All five Lynx starters finished in double-figures, including 19 points apiece from Whalen, Brunson and Maya Moore. Wiggins' three-pointer with three minutes remaining, in fact, accounted for the only points from the bench.

"Our starters played great. Thank goodness for that," Reeve said. "We've got to get back to getting bench production."

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