The first meeting between the Minnesota Lynx and Indiana Fever since the often-referenced 2012 WNBA Finals continued an overall trend of tight, intense battles that persist through the game’s closing minutes.
In Thursday afternoon’s edition, Lindsay Whalen and Monica Wright virtually willed Minnesota to a 69-62 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
Whalen scored a game-high 23 points, including a 12-point showing in the fourth quarter. Monica Wright added 22 points and a career-high nine rebounds, falling just shy of what would have been her first career double-double.
Wright’s performances this week since taking over for the injured Seimone Augustus will position the fourth-year guard as a likely candidate for Western Conference Player of the Week. Wright drained five of her first six shots to relieve a struggling Maya Moore, who missed her first seven attempts.
Shavonte Zellous paced Indiana (4-8) with 14 points. Tamika Catchings added nine points and 10 rebounds, but her offense was neutralized. Erin Phillips played in her first game this season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus. The Australian scored eight points.
The defensive scheming of both squads led to several tilts. The Fever concentrated on Wright and Whalen, effectively containing the pair during the second and third periods. Whalen was blocked four times with the Fever anticipating her drives to the lane, and Wright only made four of her last 13 shots.
Minnesota (10-3) played their usual interior defense, and Indiana’s 6-of-22 clip from three-point range could not draw them out of the paint.
The second quarter also featured the biggest momentum swings; Indiana used a 13-0 run early to erase a 25-15 deficit, but gave most of that surge back to Minnesota, who responded with an 11-0 run.
Neither team led by more than eight in the second half, but Indiana’s accuracy problems stymied every charge they made at Minnesota. Trailing 46-45 with under four minutes to play in the third, the Fever came up empty on three consecutive possessions where they could have taken the lead. The Lynx utilized their transition to score six straight points and made clutch plays whenever the Fever got the margin within a possession.
Turnovers also siphoned the injury-depleted Fever, who threw the ball away 16 times compared to 10 Lynx turnovers. The costliest was committed by Catchings with 1:19 left in regulaton, when Indiana trailed 65-60. Whalen hit a jumper on Minnesota’s next possession to put the game out of reach.
Indiana finished with a 34 percent field goal accuracy, marking the 41st consecutive win for Minnesota when their opponent converts less than 40 percent of their shots.
The Lynx continue their road trip Saturday, when they visit Tulsa for the third meeting in that series.