Minneapolis – In the 22-season history of the WNBA, only seven coaches have amassed 200 regular-season wins.
Thanks to big games by veterans Maya Moore, Sylvia Fowles and Seimone Augustus in their 91-83 win over the Dallas Wings, Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve became coach No. 8 on that list Tuesday night.
Moore had 21 points, Fowles 19 points and 17 rebounds, and Augustus 16 points in Minnesota’s second consecutive win. Danielle Robinson came off the bench to add 15 points for the defending champions.
Eighth-year coach Reeve said she was grateful for the opportunity to coach the Lynx.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to be here with this franchise at this time with so many great players,” Reeve said. “We have players that are some players who are the best of all-time in their positions playing for the Lynx during my time here. I’m thankful and appreciative that (team owner) Glen (Taylor) thought it was a good time for me to be here and experience this.”
Even more important than the wins mark to Reeve was the victory itself, as it turned a team that was .333 just a few days ago to a 5-6 version of itself that looked much more similar to the team it has been the last several years – even if they had to hold off Dallas to seal the victory.
The match up was similar to the first between the two teams earlier this season, but this time the hosts made an effort to shut down Dallas center Liz Cambage. Fowles and point guard Lindsay Whalen went to the bench early in the first half – Fowles in foul trouble – leaving the other three starters to pick it up on both the offensive and defensive end.
Moore, Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson scored 29 of the team’s 51 points in the first two periods and held Cambage to 12 points. Augustus played a fantastic second quarter scoring nine of the team’s first 12 points. Robinson, Alexis Jones and Cecilia Zandalasini also chipped in, scoring 14 first half points to give them a 51-36 lead at the break.
Minnesota’s offensive execution stuttered in the fourth quarter, allowing the Wings to go on a run and cut the lead from 21 to four. Azura Stevens started the run for the Dallas, with Skylar Diggins-Smith, Kayla Thornton, and Cambage all contributing in the comeback. Even with the Lynx up ten points with a minute left to play, the Wings continued to storm, forcing their opponents to call a timeout up four points with 20.3 seconds left. Robinson made her tenth and 11th free throws of the game with 19 seconds left, and Augustus added two more with 12.5 left to play to seal the win.
Reeve said late-game issues were a focus going into the game.
“This is not the first time this was brought to our attention,” she said about the second half struggles the team has had this season. “We’ve been talking about this. This was the first time that we made a concerted effort when we got to the fourth quarter that we were going to remind each other fourth quarter and we were going to finish strong.”
Fowles said that when all was said and done, her team executed.
“It’s about focus. All about focus,” Fowles said. “We know what we need to do and it’s about going out there and just getting it done.”
Even so, Fowles and her teammates said another late-game lapse was a concern.
“I gave myself a heart attack,” Fowles said. “I think it was very competitive from start to finish. You have to tip your hats off to Dallas for sticking in the game. We kinda lulled ourselves to sleep in the second half but we got some things to clean up and are definitely happy about the win.”
Diggins-Smith attributed her team’s comeback to their defensive persistence.
“We stepped it up on defense, got that look out of our eyes and stepped it up,” she said. “When we play like that, I think we’re one of the hardest teams to play with. When we’re able to get into our game, running our cuts hard……that’s how we’ve got to be for 40 minutes.”
Diggins-Smith led the Wings with 17 points, while Cambage scored 16 and Kayla Thornton, 12.
In giving Robinson and Jones more minutes, Reeve is at last using her bench, as Whalen only played 6:55. Robinson said she is quickly becoming acclimated to the flow of the game.
“I felt really comfortable playing with them,” Robinson said. “Really just making sure we were getting good possessions down the stretch, and just executing.”
Robinson gave credit to Reeve for her wins mark.
“It’s amazing,” Robinson said. “She’s the smartest coach I have ever been coached by. She just gets it. There is no question why this organization and why this team is so successful. She just does it and she does it the right way. I’m glad to be part of the 200th win and I look forward to being apart of many more.”
Besides Reeve’s milestone, Fowles had one of her own in surpassing former Minnesota post and current Wings assistant coach Taj McWilliams-Franklin for sixth all-time in league history in defensive rebounds. In the two games vs. Liz Cambage and the Wings, Fowles has 42 points and 36 rebounds to go along with 10 steals, a career-high five in each game.
The Lynx now hit the road for Phoenix and Las Vegas before returning to Minnesota for a game against Seattle on June 26. The Mercury defeated the Lynx 95-85 in the first matchup between the two teams.
Dallas is home for their next two match ups, with the Sparks and Storm.