Whalen welcome ruined by Mystics, 87-76 over LynxMay 17, 2010 - 4:08 AM By DAVE CAMPBELL AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS(AP) -- Most of the loud cheers for Minnesota's beloved Lindsay Whalen disappeared during the second half. She couldn't get the shots to fall or find the fast breaks, and the Lynx lost their edge.
Monique Currie scored 27 points and the Washington Mystics spoiled Whalen's home debut for Minnesota with an 87-76 victory over the Lynx on Sunday night.
"We did nothing to stand in Monique Currie's way, and she did a number on us," said Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve, adding: "Our fans were just waiting to erupt for us, so we felt bad about that."
Whalen, the former University of Minnesota star and native of nearby Hutchinson, finished with 12 points, seven assists, four steals and four rebounds, but the Lynx lost a 15-point second-quarter lead and faded after halftime while Currie and former Lynx star Katie Smith led the Mystics to their second win in two days.
Smith, in her first season with Washington, had 16 points, as did Crystal Langhorne. The Mystics are missing their leading scorer of the last five years, with Alana Beard unavailable for the season because of an ankle injury.
"I was just being aggressive, really attacking the basket and just taking what the defense was giving me," Currie said. "There is a real opportunity here with the loss of Alana Beard."
Though Minnesota's absences are temporary, with Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins expected back sometime in June, they're clearly taking an early hit even with All-Stars at every other position on the floor.
Charde Houston had 19 points and Rashanda McCants added 18 points for Minnesota. Whalen shot 4 for 11 from the floor, while the Mystics played a pack-it-in-the-paint zone defense.
"They made the adjustment. Smart move by them," said Whalen, acquired in a January trade with the Connecticut Sun. "It's been awhile since I've played against a zone for that amount of time."
Whalen's role for this franchise transcends the backcourt. Just look at a list of the promotions planned for this year with her name on them. During the fourth quarter, a video of Whalen cooking a recipe with sponsor Gold'n Plump chicken appeared on the scoreboard. The first 3,000 fans through the turnstiles were given commemorative hologram cards reflecting Whalen's career.
Whalen was the headliner in an active offseason for the Lynx, who were pegged in the WNBA's annual general manager survey as the league's most improved team.
The passionate niche favoring women's basketball in the sports fan base here has longed for Whalen to localize the Lynx since she finished her program-defining college career and guided the Gophers to the Final Four in 2004. The crowd was announced at 9,985, the team's largest for the home opener in seven years and enough to create a solidly supportive soundtrack. Many of the green jerseys and shirts spotted in the seats displayed her No. 13.
"We need your energy. We need your noise," Whalen told the fans in a brief welcome at midcourt before tipoff.
Whalen had eight points in the first quarter, and the Lynx built a lead as big as 33-18. The cool-as-they-come Whalen pointed to the fast start as proof that she didn't get a little jittery for this special appearance.
Right before Minnesota's advantage reached its 15-point apex, Whalen pulled off a perfect give-and-go with Quanitra Hollingsworth by taking an football-style shovel pass, dribbling under the basket and spinning an up-an-under layup high off the glass.
The Mystics charged back, though, frustrating the Lynx with foul trouble and shooting struggles. Even Whalen was called for charging late in the first half - drawing boos - for using her forearm to create space between her and Smith on a drive to the hoop.
Reeve grew so agitated with the foul calls against the Lynx she nearly ripped her suit jacket off and was later whistled for a technical. The fouls tilted toward the home team 30-20, and with three players picking up five or more Reeve's depth was tested further. Whether effort or positioning, the defense was a disappointment to Reeve too. And without enough stops and steals, the Lynx couldn't look to Whalen to lead their transition game.
"Trying to just run offense against a zone, that's really not her gig," Reeve said.
It helps to get the first one out of the way.
"We'll get back to practice and work on those things and get better," Whalen said. "It's a long season."
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