After the game, Lindsay Whalen was sitting in her chair, smiling, joking, almost giddy.
“I wanted this game,” she said. “We all did.”
Friday started with the bad news that All-Star Seimone Augustus will be out at least a month following knee surgery. Coming to town? Chicago, the WNBA’s highest-scoring team, on a four-game winning streak. First in the East.
So this was important. How would the Lynx, who received the 1-2 punch of losing backup Monica Wright and Augustus in a three-day stretch, respond?
Like this: With an 84-66 victory over Chicago that included a third-quarter that was darn-near perfect. With just about everyone doing just a little bit more, but nobody feeling they had to fill Augustus’ shoes by themselves. The Lynx were generous on offense and aggressive on defense.
A week earlier, Chicago ended the Lynx’s three-game winning streak. A week later, the Lynx returned the favor.
“I love how unselfish this team is,” said Maya Moore, who scored 22 of her 29 points in the second half, and had three steals and three blocks on defense. “I love how we move it, share it, don’t care who gets the credit. It’s really fun to play.”
The mantra before the game was everyone doing a little more. Everyone listened.
At least eventually. The Lynx came out intense, motivated, hard-working … And maybe a little out of sync with a starting lineup that included Anna Cruz.
It showed. The Sky (9-6) shot 50 percent in the first quarter while taking a six-point lead, one that grew to 10 points early in the second.
And then, in order, everyone did their part:
• Whalen, who entered the game having made one three-pointer all year, calmly hit two in a row when her team fell behind by 10. She scored all 10 of her points in the second quarter.
• Cruz, who had a marvelous first start, with 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists. She scored the final six Lynx points in the second quarter, the last one a drive that tied the score at 34-34 going into halftime.
• Moore, who scored 15 points in the third quarter, in which the Lynx took the game over.
The Lynx held Chicago without a field goal over the final 6:31 of that quarter, ending it with a 23-2 flourish that gave them an 18-point game.
And there’s more. Cruz and Sky guard Cappie Pondexter were backcourt teammates in New York last season. Maybe that gave Cruz some insight as she hounded Pondexter — who had 24 against the Lynx a week ago — into a four-point, three-turnover night.
Rebekkah Brunson struggled with her shot, but so did Chicago’s Elena Delle Donne (5-for-15), whom Brunson guarded. Center Asjha Jones had her first double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds) with the Lynx.
Tricia Liston came off the bench to hit two big three-pointers and score eight points. Damiris Dantas helped out on Delle Donne, too.
If Jessica Breland hadn’t scored 17 points for Chicago, this might have been even more one-sided. The Sky shot 16-for-53 over the final three quarters.
“Everyone did a little more,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “A little more defense, a little more offense. Nobody has to shoulder the load of replacing an All-Star. Everyone does a little more, and we’ll be able to hold the fort.”
After the Lynx (11-3) had done just that, Whalen was holding court. You could tell this one felt good.
“This says a lot about our group,” she said. “We’re pretty mentally tough. … And we fought through.”