Over the final 12 minutes, 43 seconds of Sunday's preseason finale at Target Center, the Lynx bench provided an enormous boost, propelling a comeback from 19 points down that helped beat the Las Vegas Aces 89-86 and gave Cheryl Reeve a whole lot to think about.
"That's what we were hoping for,'' Reeve, the Lynx coach and general manager, said after her team — but mostly the reserves fighting to be a part of the final roster later this week — ended the game with a 42-20 run over the final 12:43. Over the final 7:58 of the fourth quarter, with both teams playing reserves, the lineup of Crystal Dangerfield, Yvonne Turner, Rennia Davis, Hannah Sjerven (Rogers High alumnus) and Kayla Jones outscored Vegas 28-11.
Davis finished with a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double. Turner scored 15 points — 13 in the fourth quarter — while Sjerven had eight points and Dangerfield six.
The Lynx bench totaled 57 points, 24 rebounds, four steals and 13 assists.
"I'm excited for them,'' Reeve said. "You know, we don't have any obvious decisions across the board. Sylvia Fowles is safe. But, as you know, we have some work to do on our roster.''
A lot of work.
The Lynx are planning to go into the regular season with an 11-player roster, due to cap concerns. But when the Lynx submit that roster to the league Thursday it will include Damiris Dantas, who is currently injured, Napheesa Collier, who is expecting her first child in late May, and Kayla McBride, who will likely miss at least the first two weeks of the season.
Because of that the WNBA will allow the Lynx to sign two replacement players in time for Friday's opener in Seattle. Because of league rules that pair a replacement player to the player currently unavailable, the Lynx are likely to be making a number of moves early in the season as players either get healthy or return from overseas.
That means a number of the players who finished Sunday's game so well were fighting for very few spots. But there is some opportunity, either on the initial 11-player roster, or as a replacement player.
"Now, it's not like the second team played against their best players,'' Reeve said. "But to me, it doesn't matter. They play the way we want to play. With an energy and a connectedness and the ability to push the pace. I have to make sure I have the right people on the floor to do that.''
That was a not-so-veiled reference to what the starting lineup — without Angel McCoughtry, who had knee soreness — did not do. Reeve was unhappy with what she called selfish play. She said Aerial Powers (seven points, six turnovers) struggled. Reeve was extremely unhappy with a general lack of ability to get the ball to Fowles in the post, particularly with the inability to get the ball in high. "You continue to throw the ball at a 6-foot level, it's starting to feel like we don't have people that are good enough,'' Reeve said. "And we're gonna find people that are good enough to make those plays.''
But on a day when the Lynx starters were outscored 58-32, the reserves made up the difference.
"Very exciting,'' said Turner, who has scored 27 points in two preseason games. Her athletic ability, paired with Dangerfield down the stretch, was game-changing. "Coach Reeve, she stresses not giving up, playing to the last second."
From 7:58 left in the game until Turner's three with 1:03 left put the Lynx up two — a 24-8 run — Turner had 11, Dangerfield six and Davis five, including a three-pointer. In the final 10 minutes the Lynx shot 12-for-18 while holding Las Vegas to 3-for-9. They scored nine second-chance points and turned seven Vegas turnovers into 13 points.
A group of five players, likely competing with themselves for roster spots – played together, unselfishly.
"It meant a lot to me,'' said Davis, who missed all of her first year with an injury.
Of her 11 rebounds, five came on the offensive end. She also had two steals. After a disappointing first preseason game, Davis was active.
"I just wanted to lock in, do the little things, defense, rebounds," she said.
Sjerven was a team-best plus-22, Jones was right there at plus-19.
All of which will make some decisions more difficult.