Janel McCarville is generally not the first name that comes to mind when inquired about play-makers for the Minnesota Lynx, but her performance Sunday afternoon at Target Center was monumental.
McCarville scored a season-high 22 points to help the Lynx defeat the Seattle Storm 74-69. The veteran center made 9 of 16 shots to wipe away a meager 2-of-10 output roughly 48 hours earlier against the same Seattle (7-11) team.
“She knew when we play Seattle that post players are free to take any shot they want,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. “In Seattle, it didn’t work out for us. She made them tonight though.”
The win was a psychological nutrient for Minnesota (12-5), who struggled offensively in two prior meetings with Seattle on the road. Prior to Sunday, the Lynx had lost five of their last nine games. With Seimone Augustus unavailable due to recurring left knee bursitis, Reeve felt the win signaled what was needed to grind out close games.
“We are understanding to exert maximum effort when you’re out there. Anything less than that you lose,” she said.
Strong outside shooting from McCarville and Devereaux Peters helped the Lynx control the game through the first three quarters, where they led by as much as 14.
“When the first couple go in, that always feels better. I put a little height under it and called it a day,” McCarville said.
Seattle rallied back with a perimeter attack, knowing of Minnesota’s vulnerabilities outside the arc. They erased a 56-47 deficit early in the fourth quarter with a 14-4 run, with a Jenna O’Hea jumper giving the Storm a 61-60 lead.
The Lynx countered by turning up their inside attack, earning crucial free throw trips in the closing minutes of regulation, but neither team could pull away until the Storm committed a costly miss with 20 seconds left. Center Angel Robinson was given a wide-open lane after McCarville ran to the top of the key to contest a possible three-point shot by O’Hea. Robinson got a clean entry pass, but the missed the point-blank layup that would have given Seattle a one-point lead. Lindsay Whalen got the rebound and sank two free throws to put the Lynx up 71-68 with 15.3 seconds remaining.
After a Seattle timeout to advance the ball, Sue Bird’s inbound pass was deflected by Monica Wright. Maya Moore picked up the loose ball and clinched victory for Minnesota at the free throw line.
“In a game like this, you work like crazy to get yourself back in and give yourself a chance. We had those and we didn’t take advantage of them,” said Storm head coach Brian Agler.
Minnesota’s rebounding was largely responsible for nullifying those chances, earning a 41-26 edge. The most notable came from McCarville in the fourth quarter, who scooped a Damiris Dantas miss at the free throw line. McCarville was summarily fouled by Camille Little and drained a pair of free throws.
Moore put in 14 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and a career-high 4 blocks for Minnesota. Peters finished with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Sue Bird led Seattle with 21 points, 7 assists and 2 rebounds. She became the first player in WNBA history to earn over 4,000 career points, 2,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds. O’Hea added 14 points.