After putting together one of their most complete games of the 2019 regular season on Sunday night in a win over the Las Vegas Aces, the Minnesota Lynx continued on in their current four-game homestand by facing yet another tough opponent and playoff team at Target Center on Tuesday.
Looking to push their winning streak to three straight in front of their home crowd while welcoming the Chicago Sky into town, the Lynx had a much larger goal and accomplishment on their minds in downtown Minneapolis.
Win and they are in.
Coming into Tuesday’s contest against the Sky, the fifth-seeded team in the WNBA standings, Minnesota looked to clinch its ninth straight playoff berth with either a win or an Indiana Fever loss to the Las Vegas Aces.
After the Fever topped the Aces in a blowout 86-71 contest in Indiana earlier in the night, that meant the Lynx were going to have to take care of business at home if they wanted to officially punch a ticket to the postseason.
Minnesota took down Chicago 93-85 on Tuesday night at Target Center, winning its third game in a row and clinching a playoff berth for the ninth consecutive summer.
“It’s much later than we would have liked,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve joked post-game regarding clinching a playoff berth. “This season has been different. … It’s a great accomplishment and I want to make sure that they celebrate those successes, although it is just the first step.”
With the win, the Lynx moved back above the .500 mark on the season at 16-15 overall. Although it now has claimed a spot in the postseason, Minnesota could still move up or down in the league standings, being able to rise up to as high as the No. 6 seed, while also being able to fall to the No. 8 seed.
“This feels great. I am very happy with my team and the way that we have been playing here at home,” Sylvia Fowles told Zone Coverage after the win. “I think we know what it takes to get going and we are clicking on all cylinders, so I think that is a good thing.”
To kick things off in Tuesday’s win, the Lynx jumped out to yet another nice start at home to lead by as much as six points in the frame. The Sky, who finished the quarter off red-hot from 3 to go 5 of 7 from beyond the arc in the first 10 minutes, were able to cut the Minnesota lead down to 30-29 heading into the second quarter.
Damiris Dantas had a stellar start to the game for the Lynx to lead them to the early advantage, starting the game shooting a perfect 4 of 4 from the field with two threes to tally 10 of her total 17 points in the quarter.
In the second quarter, Minnesota was able to build onto its first-quarter lead while outscoring Chicago 21-13 to carry a 51-42 advantage into the break.
At halftime, the Lynx recorded a first-half shooting percentage of 47.7 percent while allowing the Sky to shoot 40 percent as a team.
To start the second half, Chicago quickly battled its way back into the game to take a lead after trailing Minnesota by as many as 11 points. The Sky finished the third quarter on a strong run to outscore the Lynx 28-17 in the third and carry a 70-68 advantage into the final 10 minutes.
In the fourth quarter, Minnesota grabbed momentum back early on in the quarter and took the game over to ultimately come away with the win.
In a stretch that was ignited by a huge block on the defensive end of the floor by Napheesa Collier and a few quick buckets from Fowles in the paint on offense, the Lynx regained the lead and didn’t look back. Minnesota managed to outscore Chicago 25-15 in the final frame to grab its third straight victory.
The five Lynx starters combined to score all of Minnesota’s 93 points in the victory, marking the most points scored by a team without a single bench point since Chicago tallied 94 points against Minnesota in 2013.
Fowles paced the way for the Lynx with a game-best 25 points and 12 rebounds, followed by Odyssey Sims with 23 points and eight assists.
Collier added 19 points, seven rebounds and four assists, Damiris Dantas had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Danielle Robinson pitched in with nine points, four assists and three rebounds for Minnesota, which shot 48 percent from the field with seven 3s.
“We just kept getting great play after great play (in the fourth quarter),” Collier said of Minnesota’s play down the stretch. “It’s so much fun to play in this environment like that.”
The quartet of Cheyenne Parker, Diamond DeShields, Astou Ndour and Allie Quigley led the way in the game for Chicago, which finished shooting 43.2 percent as a team with seven total threes.
Parker had a team-best 22 points and eight rebounds, DeShields had 19 points and five assists, Ndour added 17 points and six rebounds and Quigley tallied 14 points for the Sky, who dropped to 18-12 on the year.
“I told (Sky head coach) James (Wade) post-game, they are hard to play against. Their identity is so solid and they have come so far from where they were in the preseason,” Reeve said of Chicago. “I know Chicago, they wanted this one pretty badly.”
The Lynx will conclude their regular season home schedule when they host the Indiana Fever at 6 p.m. Sunday evening at Target Center. The game will be aired on Fox Sports North and WNBA League Pass and can be heard locally in Minnesota on 106.1 FM.