Going ‘Whay’ party: Lynx top Mystics in Lindsay Whalen’s final regular-season game
Officially, the Lynxs final regular season game at Target Center Sunday was fan appreciation night at Target Center. But everyone in the arena all 13,013 of them (note the two 13s in that number? A coincidence, right?) knew it was really something else:
Lindsay Whalen night.
Her retirement looming when Minnesotas season ends the Lynx will play a single-elimination game at Los Angeles Tuesday Whalen played what could be her final game, at home, in a Lynx jersey.
This is what fans came to see. This is why Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve returned Whalen to the starting lineup. This is why all the players warmed up in special T-shirts commemorating the event. Why Whalen
was the last of five starters introduced as the fans roared.
Why Whalen played almost all of the fourth quarter.
In a game that meant nothing to the Lynx in terms of playoff seeding by halftime it didnt mean anything to Washington, either the final score wasnt as important. Though, for the record:
Minnesota 88, Washington 83.
Coach Cheryl Reeve said the most important thing going into the playoffs was for the Lynx to be playing well. Sunday, they did. Especially in the fourth quarter. The fact that Washington (22-12), not playing for anything, left its starters on the bench for the final 10 minutes?
The Lynx used a 13-0 fourth-quarter run to take a 78-69 lead and finished the game off, ending a three-game losing streak, giving them an 9-8 record at home this season and an 18-16 record overall.
But heres the best part: Whalen played nearly the entire fourth quarter. And she was instrumental in that run that gave the Lynx the control of the game, while winning her 323rd WNBA game.
With 8:20 left in the game Whalen hit a three-pointer that put the Lynx up for good, 70-69. Later in that run, Whalen went to the ground for a loose ball, getting to Temi Fagbenle for a basket and a 76-69 lead.
Finally, with 1:09 left Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve took Whalen out of the game as the fans cheered. Whalen hugged Reeve, then assistant coach Shelley Patterson, then teammates Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Sylvia Fowles.
Whalen finished with 10 points, six assists and five rebounds in 27 minutes.
Fowles finished with 26 points and 14 rebounds. That final rebound, off a Cecilia Zandalasini miss, gave her 404 for the season, a WNBA single-season record, passing Connecticuts Jonquel Jones, who had 403 last season.
Maya Moore scored 16 points, Zandalasini had 12 and Augustus had 10.
Washington was led by Kristi Toliver, who had 17 points. Elena Delle Donne had 11.
After the game was over, nobody left. There was still the post-game Whalen celebration. After she had hugged all her family members at the game, after folding chairs had been set up on the court and a dais installed, it got started.
Washington coach Mike Thibault Lindsays coach in Connecticut apologized to fans for having drafted Whalen in 2004. I hope you cut me a little slack, he said. Because I traded her back. Wearing a University of Minnesota tie, he urged fans to buy Gophers season tickets.
Reeve remembered exactly where she was when she got the call from Lynx GM Roger Griffith that Whalen was available in a trade. She was in a storage locker in Michigan, getting ready for her move here, in 2010.
She invited the fans to stand and thank Whalen, noting that shell go from being called old for the last five years to being one of the youngest coaches in Div. 1. Lindsay I want to say thank you, for all youve been, she said, tearing up for the umpteenth time this week. There is so much. Thank you, Lindsay, for all of those memories.
And then, Whalen.
She thanked her sister for cutting short a birthday trip to be there. Thanked the team for the special T-shirts. Ive played this game for 15 years, and I finally got this T-shirt. She thanked Mark Dayton for declaring Sunday Lindsay Whalen Day in Minnesota. She thanked Thibault and Reeve. For us to play for you is an honor, every night, she said to Reeve.