Washington, D.C. – It was to be a showdown between the WNBA’s top two teams, but it ended up being a rout Friday, as the Minnesota Lynx had little trouble with the Washington Mystics, 98-73.
The Mystics were without leading scorer Elena Delle Donne, who sat out with a groin strain. They are also missing center Emma Meesseman, who is playing in the Eurobasket tournament. So they had no answer for Lynx posts Sylvia Fowles, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Rebekkah Brunson, who added 17 points.
Undefeated Minnesota shot 52.6 percent on the night, but it was their 30 assists that made coaches and players alike happy.
“That’s a number that we really enjoy,” said Maya Moore, who put up 17 points for the visitors. “When everyone is doing what they do in their position, within our system and within our flow, that’s the most fun that we have. So the fact that we can get that many assists usually means we have a good flow and everyone is feeling good.”
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was also pleased with her team’s offensive effort, which she characterized as “keeping it simple.”
“Brunson made them pay for some of the help that you have to provide against Sylvia,” Reeve said. “I thought our offense was really good, it kind of kept them from getting into the pace they want to play at. They want to fly up the floor, try to get to the foul line and shoot threes, and I thought our offense really kept them out of that in the first half.”
Tayler Hill, who has been the picture of consistency for Washington, finished with a team-high 20 points. She carried the load for the tam, making fearless drives to the basket and even shaking Moore for a bucket to end the first half.
Ivory Latta came off the Mystics’ bench for 15 points.
Washington coach Mike Thibault said the game went beyond missing players from his team, and he gave the Lynx credit for their acumen.
“The fact of the matter is they are the best team, in my opinion, by a lot,” he said. “What they just did to us, they did a week ago to Seattle. It was just as ugly for the loser and just as pretty for the winner.”
“They have had a little bit of a rebirth, Minnesota. What they have done, a lot of veterans took the winter off. Cheryl has upped the tempo for them, has asked some of them to work on – post players like Brunson and Natasha Howard to become better three-point shooters. You are seeing the results. We are not in their league yet. I don’t know who is right now. but we’re not.”
Following a first-half shellacking, the Mystics found themselves facing a 19-point deficit going into halftime.
Though Fowles and Brunson saw fewer minutes in the second half, Minnesota’s high-powered offense did not slow down, and the home team was sufficiently buried. Moore caught her stride and scored 10 of her 17 points in the second half, going three for three from long range.
Lynx point guard Lindsey Whalen had a night to remember, as she passed WNBA great Swin Cash for most regular-season wins with 295 for her 14-year career.
“Coach Reeve and her staff, in this year and years past have put us in a great mind frame every game and every night and before you know it it’s 295,” Whalen said. “It goes fast, but it’s really fun to be a part of. It’s an accomplishment that I don’t take lightly.”
Sue Favor contributed to this report.