Sylvia Fowles is the league’s MVP — she received the huge trophy before Thursday’s game from President Lisa Borders, and led her squad with 25 points. But Lindsay Whalen was the game’s MIP (most impactful player) in Minnesota’s 93-83 win to take a 2-0 lead over Washington.
“Tonight really belonged to Lindsay Whalen,” LaChina Robinson, ESPN’s sideline reporter told the MSR in a short post-game analysis. “At a time when emotions of the game were wavering, and Minnesota really hadn’t put the clamp down on Washington, I thought it was Lindsay Whalen’s emotional play that really took them over the top.”
“I finally felt I had a little bounce back in my game,” Whalen admitted after her nine points-seven assists performance to give her club a two-game lead going into the weekend.
Her reverse lay-up with 1:23 left on the clock gave the winners their largest lead of the night, and scored the team’s last basket of the night, another lay-up with 38 seconds remaining. “I actually felt good all day. I was able to play hard down the stretch,” noted Whalen.
Fowles said Whalen’s floor leadership was also crucial: “Lindsay tells you what she wants you to do, and got to get it done. She held her end of the stick for us, and pushed us through,” said the MVP.
Thursday’s contest was not a weak stomach or faint of heart game. Bodies were crashing all over the place, all night long. A couple of technical fouls, one on each team (Washington’s Tierra Ruffin-Platt, and Seimone Augustus for Minnesota drew them in the third quarter) as well.
Whalen and Augustus simply called Thursday’s contest “a playoff game.”
“It was a great game, back and forth. We had to fight for every ball,” remarked the Lynx point guard.
“Tonight you saw the adjustments,” added Augustus, who finished with 15 points. “The atmosphere was good — it was a playoff game tonight.”
Briana Joyner of Edina, who watched Thursday’s game from the first row at midcourt, said, “I thought they were going to lose but they ended up taking the game home.”
“The crowd has been amazing here,” noted ESPN’s LaChina Robinson, who worked both games this week as sideline reporter. Robinson then offered her two-game assessment of the Lynx-Mystics semifinals, now heading to the nation’s capital for Game 3 on Sunday.
Minnesota’s Game 1 shooting performance — 59 percent from the field and 70 percent from behind the arc was very impressive, she recalled. “Seimone Augustus turned back the hands of time [she led all scorers with 24 points] and Sylvia Fowles was MVP.”
As for the Mystics, now down two games to none, “I think this game should give them confidence,” continues Robinson. “They had a lead on Minnesota [a 10-point lead at the end of first quarter] and led [47-45] at their place at halftime, and were able to stick with them down the stretch.
“You should leave here feeling good going back to your home court. But it is tough to lose games like this, when yout pretty much in control for more than a half.”
Robinson liked how both Kristi Toliver (three points in Game 1, and 25 points Thursday) and Elena Delle Donne (17 points in the first game, and 25 in Game 2) bounced back, as well as solid contributions from Natasha Cloud (eight points in each game) and Allison Hightower’s eight points off the bench Thursday “in moments of the game.”
Robinson stressed that Minnesota’s defensive tenacity must show up earlier than it did Thursday. “I thought they waited a little too long and let Washington get into a rhythm and hit shots,” said Robinson. “They are going to have to bring that defense early in the game and play it throughout.”
Augustus agreed with Robinson that the Lynx let the Mystics’ pick and roll offense hurt them too much: “We got to clean it up,” assessed the guard, “and continue to be more aggressive. They were aggressive with us and we had a lot of dead possessions on offense. We have to be efficient on that end as well.”
“It is going to be another battle out there,” predicted Whalen of the semifinals’ third game on Sunday.
Yes, she said it . . .
“We are going there to close out [on Sunday],” stated Augustus. “We don’t want to come back to the ‘U’ until the Finals.”
“Without a doubt,” added Lynx fan Rikaya Wafford of Farmington, Minn.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
See more photos by Chris Juhn below: