Lineups: Same again for Minnesota, with Damiris Dantas continuing to fill in for Rebekkah Brunson. Connecticut promoted rookie forward Alyssa Thomas into the starting lineup in place of point guard Alex Bentley. Part of that may have been to have an extra perimeter defender with some size on the floor to handle Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore, but it’s also a move that wouldn’t exactly be miles outside the box against anyone. Allison Hightower has been handling many of the point guard duties for Connecticut for years now, and can comfortably slide over, while Thomas’s development is a big part of the Sun’s future.
Story of the Game: As this was Minnesota’s home opener, the pre-game festivities involved raising the 2013 championship banner and handing out the rings. The Lynx then proceeded to play the first half like they’d drunk too much wine at the party. They were uncharacteristically sloppy, giving up too many cheap turnovers, and leaving too much space to exploit in their defense. The Sun shot unsustainably well, but Minnesota helped them find that rhythm. Chiney Ogwumike also had far too much room to work in the paint. While in some ways it was just a bad half, and those happen to every team, we’re going to see more defensive breakdowns from the Lynx early in the season than we’re used to, simply because they’ve got a lot of new pieces in the mix once you get past the four returning starters. It’s difficult to play on-a-string defense when not everyone knows which way (and how far) that string is meant to stretch.
It took a while for the expected comeback to kick in during the second half – Connecticut’s lead rose as high as 16 – but it arrived eventually. Maya Moore was the unsurprising catalyst, drilling several shots late in the third quarter, while the team defense also started to force turnovers and create transition chances.
It briefly looked like the young Sun squad were going to be overwhelmed by the charging Lynx, but they pulled themselves together and stuck around in the fourth quarter. After Janel McCarville turned an ankle while trying to bring the ball up the floor, it took a ridiculous second-chance basket by Moore, a Lindsay Whalen baseline jumper, a dreadful Katie Douglas turnover, and a tough leaning jumper over defenders from Seimone Augustus to tie the game and send it to overtime. Whalen dribbled the ball straight out of bounds on an inbounds play in the middle of all that, too.
It was all Ogwumike early in OT, scoring the first five points of the extra period, but from there Whalen took charge. She’d generally had an awful night of missed layups and turnovers, but isn’t the kind of character to sit down and hide on the end of the bench. Her driving finishes and earned free throws turned the game in Minnesota’s favour, before she hit a deep jumper to give the Lynx a three-point lead with 12 seconds left. Douglas found Alyssa Thomas wide open for a three to potentially tie it, but shooting from deep is not exactly the rookie’s forte. She airballed it, and the Lynx had pulled off the comeback win.