Lynx take Mercury with game-changing third quarter, end losing streak

The Lynx overcame a slow start Tuesday night in Phoenix, ending their five-game losing streak with an 84-71 victory against the Mercury.

Minnesota moved past the bad memories of narrow, heartbreaking losses to two of the WNBA’s best teams in Seattle and Las Vegas. The Lynx improved as the game went on, and the tide turned in the third quarter. Nikolina Milic made a 3-pointer, and the Lynx didn’t look back.

“I thought overall we had good pace,” head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “A good connection, which is something that’s been growing for us. … I’m really happy for our locker room for it to translate into a [win] for us.”

Minnesota’s more assertive stance on both ends of the floor began early in the game, and the Lynx overcame an 11-point deficit following the first quarter for a dominant second.

Early in the second quarter, Minnesota got more aggressive on the ball. Starter Kayla McBride had two steals. The Lynx defense put more pressure on and took advantage of turnovers. The Mercury had 16 turnovers in the game. All of that effort resulted in a 25-point frame for the Lynx, narrowing the deficit to four points at halftime.

Until Nikolina Milic’s shot in the third quarter, the Lynx had not had a lead in the game, although it had been tied three times, two instances coming just minutes before Milic’s shot.

McBride led the effort in points. She had some dominant baskets in the paint off of promising passes from her teammates. The Lynx finished with 24 assists in the game.

Natalie Achonwa was another benefactor of those assists. “The pace that she does things, the intensity, the intentional nature into what she’s doing, she gives us great flow,” Reeve said. “I think it really built her confidence.”

Achonwa had 10 points off the bench in the second half, even more notable considering her lengthy absence from the court. She exited Minnesota’s second game of the season on May 8 against Washington with a right hamstring injury and missed the next 14 games, only being activated just ahead of Minnesota’s game against Phoenix on Tuesday.

McBride and Achonwa led the way for what ended up being a balanced scoring effort for the Lynx.

“The history between Kayla and I, having played together since we were 17 or 18 years old in college, I think being able to come back to that had that connection,” Achonwa said.

While it was just a duo early on, Aerial Powers, Rachel Banham and Moriah Jefferson knocked down baskets to push Minnesota into the lead. McBride finished with 18 points, five steals and 3 assists. Achonwa was perfect from the field and the free-throw line for 12 points, adding six rebounds as well. Jefferson led the way in the assist category, dishing out nine in the game, while adding 12 points.

After just two 3-point baskets in the first half, Minnesota exploded for eight more to bolster its lead in the second half. The Lynx also made a difference at the free-throw line, missing just two chances while Phoenix shot 68.2 percent from the line.

“We’ve been building on this,” McBride said. “We had a great game against Seattle, we went toe-to-toe with the best team in the league right now. It’s really hard to win in this league.”Related Articles

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