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'Selfless' Lynx defeat two-time defending champion Aces

After the Lynx had whipped the two-time defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces 100-86 in their gym Tuesday night, after the Lynx had set season highs in points in regulation, assists (34), three-point makes and percentage (15 and 55.6%), and field goals made (37), Minnesota center Alanna Smith said it could get better.

"There's always room for improvement,'' Smith said. "We're never going to settle.''

So this is settling: all five Lynx starters scoring in double figures, ranging from Smith's 18 points to 14 for Napheesa Collier. Courtney Williams had nine assists, two steals and just one turnover to go with 15 points. Bridget Carleton went 5-for-7 on three-pointers and scored 15 points of her own. The Lynx assisted on all but three of their 37 field goals at Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas.

This isn't settling. It's a statement.

"I think anytime we can come out and beat the defending champions, that's good for our résumé,'' Williams said. "That's how I look at it.''

The Lynx (9-3) won their second straight game and for the fifth time in six games. Minnesota also finished 4-1 in Commissioner's Cup play. That means the Lynx would play the New York Liberty in the Cup final if either Phoenix loses or if both Phoenix and Seattle win Thursday night.

And the Lynx did it with the kind of chemistry and selflessness that has marked their season so far.

"That kind of comes naturally to them,'' coach Cheryl Reeve said. "It's at the core of who they are, to be selfless. As a team we have that, by design.''

The Lynx became the first team in WNBA history to have all five starters score at least 14 points, grab at least four rebounds and make at least one three-pointer.

All five starters had at least one assist, too. Williams finished with nine, Kayla McBride eight, Collier six, Smith three.

Not settling. The Lynx are settling in.

"They trust each other. They cover for each other,' Reeve said. "It's just been great. Winning is contagious.''

All this after a difficult start Tuesday. The Lynx found themselves down 10-2 to begin, and Collier was on the bench with two fouls after just four minutes.

But the Lynx shot nearly 65% in the quarter, got 10 points each from Smith and McBride, and trailed by just two points, 31-29, entering the second.

After that? The Lynx kept scoring and added more defense. The result: a 30-17 second quarter that put the Lynx up 59-48. It was the Lynx's highest-scoring half since June 2022. A 19-12 third quarter for Minnesota pushed that lead to 18 points.

BOXSCORE: Lynx 100, Las Vegas 86

WNBA standings

And it got spicy. Natisha Hiedeman and the Aces' Kelsey Plum got after each other after Hiedeman swatted one of Plum's shots into the seats.

It was all part of the plan. In a 14-point loss to Las Vegas in Minneapolis two weeks ago, the Lynx struggled with the Aces' physical play. On Tuesday, they went toe-to-toe.

Of course, the Aces (5-5) had one run in them. After Collier's two free throws in the first minute of the fourth quarter pushed the Lynx's lead to 20, Aces star A'ja Wilson —who scored 28 points — had five points in a 12-3 run that got Las Vegas to within 11 on Sydney Colson's layup with 5:59 left.

But Williams fed Smith for a three. After Wilson scored, Williams hit a mid-range shot. Moments later, with 3:45 left, Collier fed Carleton for her final three. Carleton, who is playing her best basketball as a professional, has hit 16 of her last 29 three-point attempts. Las Vegas lost its third game in a row.

Not long afterward, both coaches cleared their benches.

"This is a good showing in terms of how we felt about the game in Minneapolis,'' Reeve said. "Their physicality bothered us in Minny. Tonight, we found our way with that.''

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.