Wright helped steal one for Lynx

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 19, 2012 - 8:42 AM

Stat sheet doesn't chart impact of the backup guard's quick feet and hands.

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Monica Wright, hugging the floor and her opponent, had a big impact Wednesday with her defensive pressure against Indiana.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

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Most of the national highlight shows and blogs were focusing on Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve and her jacket-tossing technical foul after Game 2 of the WNBA finals on Wednesday.

But Tamika Catchings of Indiana was focused on a Lynx player -- one she said changed the tide of the game. Reeve herself said the Lynx were in a scoring rut until that player went in. Taj McWilliams-Franklin said her teammate hounded the Fever's guards.

Surely this impact player was one of the Lynx's three Olympians, who combined to score 64 points in the Lynx's 83-71 victory over the Fever to square the series at a game apiece heading to Indiana for Game 3 on Friday.

Nope. It's backup guard Monica Wright. She was one of the first two players who came off the Lynx bench halfway through the opening quarter ... and she scored a whopping two points. Wright also had a turnover, missed her only two free-throw attempts and committed four personal fouls.

Huh?

Well, there's one more key column on the stat sheet: steals. Wright made five -- a game- and season-high -- and added an intangible defensive pressure with her foot speed and quick hands.

"Monica Wright changed the game for us," Reeve said. "We were struggling to score. The game was slow. It was grind-it-out."

Reeve's sideline antics barely registered in-game with Catchings on Tuesday.

"It wasn't really until I saw the replay later on that I really knew what was going on."

But post-game Wednesday, Catchings said this: "When Monica Wright came in, that's when their defensive intensity went way up. I had a turnover to Bri [Briann January] and almost had another. [It was] like a chain of turnovers we had."

Indiana lost the ball 24 times, and off those mistakes, mostly forced, the Lynx scored 27 points. Catchings, a forward who scored 27 points on only 14 shots and four trips to the free-throw line, was the worst at securing the ball. She had seven turnovers, closely followed by starting guards Shavonte Zellous with six and January with five.

Early in the second quarter, the Fever was ahead 23-11 and the Lynx were a woeful 4-of-17 from the field. It was looking like a continuation of Game 1, a loss in which the home team shot 11 percent in the closing quarter.

Not so fast. Wright, whom the Lynx took with the second overall pick in the 2010 WNBA draft, was chosen by coaches as the national defensive player of the year as a senior at Virginia. She had a steal in the first quarter and two in the second as the Lynx's rally began.

"Everybody maybe got their second wind," Wright said. "And we got a couple turnovers. We are both defensive teams that put pressure on guards."

By halftime, the Fever's 12-point lead had been whittled to two.

"[Wright] got in there and, from a defensive standpoint, really increased the pressure," Reeve said. "Our entire team fed off that, and we got up and were in our full-court pressure mode. She set the tone. I told [Wright] I was just really, really happy with her."

So was McWilliams-Franklin, the Lynx center.

"[Wright] got steals. She was active," said the WNBA's oldest player, who turns 42 on Saturday and was playing in her 62nd playoff game. "Even in fouls, she was active. She was on the ball. You know ... how tiring [it is] having someone always on you?"

Wright's steals, McWilliams-Franklin said, also relaxed her teammates and the Lynx's running game got going.

"Easy baskets [are] much more fun," McWilliams-Franklin said, "than trying to bring [the ball] up against a set defense."

Wright will try to duplicate the feat Friday, while Indiana will attempt to use its home-court advantage to swing the series in its favor.

"You think about the game [Wednesday] night, the ups and downs ... and the things we need to do to get better," Catchings said. "I'll be ready for [Friday] night."

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