A spirited effort by the Lynx comes up short as Minnesota basketball fans relive a historical blunder.
Expectations for fans weren’t sky-high heading into this one. In one corner, you have the league-best Las Vegas Aces who easily sport the best net rating in the league, evidenced by a three-game win streak. In the other corner, you have the worst team in the league with the second-worst net rating, and a four-game losing streak.
That said, the Lynx once again opened the game with a sense of urgency that we have often seen this season. It was clear the coach Cheryl Reeve got through to her team as far as cleaning glass after getting pummeled by the Seattle Storm in that department in their last defeat. They swarmed former MVP A’ja Wilson and former Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby to gang rebound their way to a 25-18 rebounding edge in the first half. Meanwhile on offense, they moved the ball around early and often, leading to great perimeter looks (8/18 from behind the arc).
Their effort on both ends of the court led to a surprising 50-39 Lynx lead at the half. They continually punished the Aces defensive looks which included a good amount of zone. Perhaps most importantly, they limited themselves to just three turnovers in the first 20 minutes of the game, which is a huge improvement from their 15.8 average turnovers per game.
As we have become to used to seeing, that same defensive energy and unselfishness on offense disappeared in the third quarter. Credit to Becky Hammon for making necessary adjustments to slow down the Lynx, but many of her guards waltzed into the lane without any resistance. None more so than Kelsey Plum, who scored 21 points. Another huge thorn in Minnesota’s side was Chelsea Gray, a long-time nemesis who mostly controlled the pace of the game with her game-high eight assists. To make three of a kind, A’ja Wilson also came alive and ate most defenders in her path, finishing the game with a game-high 25 points on just 15 shot attempts.
A 20-4 Aces run put them back ahead just 5 minutes into the second half.
Fortunately for Minnesota, Moriah Jefferson and Rachel Banham continued to put the orange ball in the nylon hoop. They helped keep the Lynx head above water to the point of somehow walking into the final period with a one-point lead.
The final quarter was super entertaining basketball. Both teams exchanged blows back and forth, culminating in Aerial Powers and Plum going head-to-head during a small altercation. Multiple times, it looked like Las Vegas had put it away, but Minnesota would somehow claw their way back in. Jefferson continued to be excellent, playing her best of the season, finishing with a 23 point (10/14 shooting), four rebound, and seven assist night, including clutch defensive plays.
Jessica Shepard was also outstanding off the bench. Her 22 point (9/11 shooting), 19 rebound, six assist, and one block stat line was indicative of her impact, as she wrestled with Wilson all game. The Lynx found themselves down five with 16.2 seconds left before Jefferson dumped it off for Shepard to cut the deficit to three.
Following an Aces timeout to advance the ball, Minnesota scrambled just enough to force Jackie Young to overthrow the inbounds pass, giving the ball right back to the visitors with 5.3 ticks left. With no timeouts remaining, the Lynx got the ball in quickly in Shepard’s hands. She had essentially been the best player of the night. Instead of pulling up for a desperation three pointer, Shepard went straight to the post and… shot a nine-foot turnaround mid-ranger.
It bounced around the rim before dropping in as the final buzzer sounded.
In case you were looking for it, this was the final shot by Jessica Shepard. She owned up to her mistake after the game was over:
“That was my fault… That’s on me at the end of the day. I obviously didn’t know it was a three-point game.”
— Leo S (@Y0Leo) June 20, 2022
If you’ve been around Minnesota basketball long enough, you’ll remember a similar play by the Timberwolves that occurred in 2012.
Surely, a disappointing end to an otherwise encouraging game for the Lynx. Much like the loss versus Seattle, they just couldn’t finish the job despite playing a mostly solid performance. Minnesota has now dropped to 3-13 and three games back of the eighth seed. Though the players and coaches will never tell us or believe it themselves, it’s certainly time for us to start thinking about the future. Even if they did limp into the playoffs, is there any remote chance they contend for a championship this year?
Minnesota’s wraps up their quick road trip with a late tip against the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday 6/16 @ 9:00pm CT. They’ve largely underperformed thus far, as their revamped team featuring new faces Tina Charles and Diamond DeShields are sitting at just 6-10 (9th overall). Part of that is lack of cohesion, but a big part has also been injuries.
This may also be a good time to re-share that they have been without future hall-of-famer, Brittney Griner, who has been under Russian detention for going on 122 days now. We here at Canis Hoopus would like to encourage all of our readers to join us in the call to bring Griner back home. You can visit WeAreBG.org to sign the petition or see other resources/information. #WeAreBG
— Women’s Sports Foundation (@WomensSportsFdn) June 18, 2022