Her coach and teammates don’t have the same reservations. They are willing to do the talking for her.
Whalen had 20 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, without committing a turnover and the Lynx beat the Chicago Sky 78-69 Thursday night. It marked the first time in WNBA history a player had at least 20 points and 10 assists without a turnover.
“MVP,” Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said describing Whalen’s game Thursday. “If you’re only looking at statistics, maybe it’s not so impressive to an average person that doesn’t watch our team. If you watch our team, and I saw this too, Seimone (Augustus) is right there as well, but I just thought Whay kind of solidified herself tonight again, an exclamation point.”
Augustus scored 22 points and Maya Moore had 16 points and seven rebounds to help the league-best Lynx (26-7) win for the eight time in nine games.
Whalen broke her own team record for assists in a season and is averaging career-highs with 14.1 points and 5.9 assists per game with one game remaining in the regular season. Only one player in WNBA history—Sue Bird in 2002—has averaged at least 14 points and six assists for a season.
“That’s an MVP candidate right there,” Augustus said. “That’s the leader of our team. That’s why we have the record that we have. That’s why we are so successful this year, because the way she is playing.”
Even though the Lynx have already wrapped up the Western Conference title and home-court throughout the playoffs, there was no letting up against Chicago. Reeve has talked about the necessity of striking a balance between being rested for the playoffs, while also staying sharp.
In the end, each of the Lynx’s starters played at least 19 minutes and four played at least 25. The league’s second-ranked defense limited the Sky to 36 percent shooting.
“The hard thing is when the ball goes up to start the game, you’re competitive juices get going and its really hard to take players out when the game hasn’t been decided,” Reeve said.
Fowles scored 15 points in the first half and finished 7 for 13 from the field. Her teammates, however, were 18 for 56 (32 percent).
“It’s one of those things where you go to her early and you play through her,” Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. “Then you play off of her and she allows other people to get open. You run the play and three people try to stop Syl, so you kick to Erin Thorn.”
Epiphanny Prince—who came in averaging 14.5 points per game—was held to just eight on 3 of 12 shooting.
Prince’s 3-pointer gave Chicago a 53-52 lead to start the fourth quarter. However, Whalen followed with a driving layup to put the Lynx back ahead, and Moore’s 3 stretched the lead to seven with about 5:40 to go.
Carolyn Swords’ three-point play pulled the Sky to 67-66 about 2 minutes later, but the Lynx scored the next nine points to pull away for good.
“Every game means something,” Whalen said. “It didn’t really mean much in the standings, but it meant a lot to us. We wanted to win our last home game and we want to be sharp going into the playoffs.”
Whalen had eight points and six assists, and Augustus added nine points as the Lynx led by 11 points in the first half. After missing her first five shots, Moore scored seven points late in the half and Minnesota held a 41-32 lead at the break.