Given how many players weren't in action Saturday at Target Center, it's hard to draw definite conclusions from Minnesota's 79-68 preseason victory over Washington.

But Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve will take it.

"We're still not there," Reeve said, with Friday's regular season opener against Phoenix looming. "But, overall, we held them pretty much throughout the game below 30 percent [shooting]. I thought we were hard to play against."

The Lynx were playing without at least three of their starters, and perhaps four. Kayla McBride and Napheesa Collier both still are playing overseas and are likely to miss Friday's opener.

Saturday Reeve sat center Sylvia Fowles and wing Aerial Powers, hoping to have them fresh for the season opener against the Mercury.

That meant a starting lineup of Crystal Dangerfield, Rachel Banham, Natalie Achonwa, Damiris Dantas and Bridget Carleton.

The Mystics were playing without star Elena Delle Donne.

But there was still reason for optimism after what was basically Minnesota's only real preseason game.

After last week's controlled scrimmage in Atlanta, Reeve wanted to see better defense, better paint protection and someone to step up with emergency roster spots potentially available because of McBride and Collier being gone and rookie Rennia Davis being hurt.


The Lynx held Washington to 19-for-66 shooting (29.2%) while still defending the perimeter. A strong second quarter had the Lynx up 15. Washington got within six in the third. Up nine after three, the Lynx built a 16-point lead early in the fourth.

Washington rallied to within eight, but Banham's four-point play with 3:12 left put the Lynx up 12.

The former Gophers star was very good — a plus-24 — with 23 points in 27 minutes. Against a team that was determined to pressure the ball on the perimeter, Banham made five of 10 three-pointers, with three rebounds and three assists.

"It was fun," Banham said. "We had some [difficult] moments; we have to take care of the ball better. But I thought we made some good adjustments. They're a really good team. It felt good to have some success against them."

Continuing to look strong after her nearly two-year recovery from knee surgery, Jessica Shepard had a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double.

"That's how she's been practicing," Reeve said. "It's a great example for people. She's been playing her butt off in practice. Everyone's got physical things going on. But when Jess is out there, you don't know what's going on. She just plays, and plays hard."

Achonwa, starting for Fowles, scored six points. But more impressive was her passing: Achonwa had a team-high five assists.

The ability of Achonwa and Shepard to pass will be important, Reeve said, against teams that pressure the guards.

Finally, Linnae Harper, perhaps making a case to stick around when the regular season starts, scored six points with four steals and four rebounds.

"It was time to see what Harper could do," Reeve said. "Really good, really active game."

Tina Charles led Washington with 18 points. Guard Ariel Atkins added 10.