Often, at the start of the fourth quarter, the Lynx starters are watching from the bench, resting. Not Saturday.
With the offense running in fits and stops, with the Dallas Wings a bit closer than they probably should have been, coach Cheryl Reeve made a statement by putting all her starters on the floor to start the fourth with the Lynx holding a six-point lead.
A lot of offense ensued. The Lynx used a 27-point fourth to put the Wings away 80-63, improving to 7-0 and matching the second-best start to a season in franchise history. Next up: trying to match the 2012 team that began 10-0.
But Saturday it was all about the finish. “I had a comfort level there,” Reeve said. “I thought, in this game, it was needed.’’
And the starters delivered in a big way. Up four, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen each had four points to start a 16-5 run that put the Lynx up 69-54 with 5:09 to go. The Wings (3-4) never got closer than 12 again. This time the Lynx starters ended the game watching from the bench.
All of them finished in double figures, led by Sylvia Fowles’ 16. Augustus (14 points) and Whalen (11 and eight assists), scored six points in the final quarter. Rebekkah Brunson finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
“We executed down the stretch,’’ said Augustus, whose two jumpers gave the Lynx their first four points of the fourth. “At that point we had to lock in and knock down shots.’’
If the offense was up and down, the Lynx defense was strong throughout. Playing without Skylar Diggins and Erin Phillips, Dallas shot only 36.6 percent and turned the ball over 20 times. Aerial Powers hit three three-pointers off the bench and led the team with 20 points.
The Lynx had a 10-point lead early in the game and a 13-point lead early in the third. But the Wings were within six after three quarters, and within four after Karima Christmas opened the fourth with a layup.
After that it was all Lynx. They scored eight points off six Wings turnovers, scored six on the break and shot 12-for-17 over the final 10 minutes, getting nine assists on those 12 field goals. Four of the five starters had a steal in the quarter.
“We got some deflections and some good stops on defense,” Whalen said. “We were able to get out and run. And some of those jumpers we were taking started going. It all just kind of started flowing.”
Right to the end. As a result the Lynx remained one of two undefeated teams in the league, matching 7-0 Los Angeles.
“All in all, that’s a group that’s pretty happy with the bigger picture,” Reeve said of her team. “We had a really good focus.”