Lineups: For the first time in their four meetings this season, the two best teams in the WNBA had their entire rotations fit and ready to play. There were no surprises in the starting lineups.
Story of the Game: The Lynx, led by Maya Moore, lit Phoenix up in the opening quarter. Apart from a couple of breakaways that Moore created with a block and a steal it was all on jump shots, but that didn’t seem to matter – everything was dropping. Moore was electric, hitting from everywhere, including a couple of threes. One of them was on the same sideline play – where she inbounds the ball, gets it back immediately and fires – that resulted in two vital buckets in the fourth quarter of the previous Lynx-Mercury game. Phoenix might want to actually prepare for that next time these teams meet. And while Moore was the leader, everyone else was making shots for Minnesota as well, including Janel McCarville nailing a three when the defense left her alone, and Monica Wright adding a pair of jumpers after coming off the bench.
It was all Phoenix could do to cling on, and they just about managed it. They went inside to Brittney Griner a few times, and while she came up with a couple of buckets McCarville was also doing a good job of pushing Griner off the block before the ball could arrive. When Griner did get open, it was usually thanks to a physical screen from Diana Taurasi, who was clearly up for this game from the very beginning. She whined about how physical the previous meeting with Minnesota was – despite never shying away from creating contact herself – and it was clear that she was determined to get the first hit in this time around. She was also much more aggressive in looking for her own shot than we’ve seen in most of Phoenix’s games this season, where she’s often been as much of a creator as a scorer. It was the same in the last game against the Lynx – for such a big game, she wants the scoring responsibility in her hands.
The Mercury were only down by eight after that explosive opening period for Minnesota, which felt like a victory for Phoenix. Then in the second quarter, they came right back into the game. The Lynx inevitably cooled off, and their efforts to get the ball inside and create some paint points resulted in more turnovers than baskets. Phoenix were the team getting into the lane, and they were still clearly the aggressors in the contest, making things happen. DeWanna Bonner was looking to attack and score, Penny Taylor was driving into the defense, and a spinning Taurasi baseline jumper for the final points of the first half gave Phoenix their first lead of the night. The fact that it came after an uncalled (yet blatant) push-off to shed the defense of Lindsay Whalen just helped sum up the first half.