Fever are 'here for real' with 1-0 lead on Lynx


Fever are 'here for real' with 1-0 lead on Lynx

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Midway through the fourth quarter of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, Minnesota power forward Rebekkah Brunson rose in the lane toward the basket with her team trying to mount a rally.

Indiana center Erlana Larkins delivered the emphatic rejection.

Brunson was knocked to the floor as her shot was swatted, and Minnesota's chance to win the series opener essentially fell down with her. The Lynx were trailing 65-62 with about five minutes left, but they never came closer. The Fever quickly tacked on a layup on the other end and cruised to a 76-70 victory on Sunday night.

``It was what I call a thunder block,'' Fever coach Lin Dunn said. ``She is rising up and she just slides that ball, and it just kind of set the tone: `Hey, we're here for real, and we are ready to play.'''

The Lynx, looking to become the league's first repeat champion in 10 years, are at full attention.

``We want to make sure that we're not a team that gets out-hungered. That is really important,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said, adding: ``We've got a lot to overcome, and we'll see if we're able to.''

Game 2 is Wednesday night at Target Center, before the best-of-five series shifts to Indiana for Game 3 on Friday night.

``We've got a lot of competitors on our team that really hate to lose, so I guess in Game 2 you'll see the difference,'' Lynx shooting guard Seimone Augustus said. ``You'll see us come out and be a little bit more aggressive from start to finish. We're going to play and give it all that we have.''

The Fever spent Monday getting massages at a spa before reconvening for practice on Tuesday. The two-day layoff between games probably wasn't enough for veteran shooting guard Katie Douglas, though. After spraining her left ankle in the last game of the Eastern Conference finals, Douglas was missing from Game 1. Dunn said she's improving but unlikely to play Wednesday.

``Hopeful for Friday,'' Dunn said.

So the Fever will continue to lean on their tallest ladies, with Larkins and Tamika Catchings inside. They combined for 36 points, 21 rebounds and five blocks in Game 1 and held Lynx post players Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin to a total of 16 points and 14 rebounds.

``We had a great week of practice. We went over everything we could have possibly gone over, but they came out and they were ready to win,'' Brunson said. ``They played great.''

Catchings is still chasing her first WNBA championship at age 33. Larkins was out of the league the last two years before joining the Fever this season. No matter the perspective or the experience, the motivation is the same.

``When you've never won a title you approach it a little bit different than trying to defend a title,'' Dunn said. ``We've got players that had a taste of the finals in 2009, and they know what it was like and how close they came. It was almost like they had their hands on the trophy and it got snatched away.''

The Fever lost to the Phoenix Mercury in five games in 2009. So they're not comfortable by simply taking the home-court advantage.

``We know that they're going to come out Wednesday, and they're going to be a much different team and much better,'' Catchings said. ``And for us, we have to continue to get better too.''

Added point guard Erin Phillips: ``They're going to come in so hungry, so aggressive. They're the defending champions, and they're here for the second time for a reason. They're a great team. ... We can't just sit around and be satisfied that we won Game 1 and give ourselves a pat on the back, and that's it. It's going to be a much harder game.''

The Lynx pride themselves on their bounce-back ability, so they're expecting the same: a more aggressive performance.

``I'm hoping we won't lose two in a row,'' Augustus said. ``We've been good at that point, bouncing back in tough-game situations, and this is the perfect example, the perfect time for us to be able to bounce back and go to Indiana and steal one on the road or steal two on the road and pull this championship out.''


Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter:

Quick Links

GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson


GM Brian MacLellan: Capitals are close to re-signing John Carlson

DALLAS—The Caps are “really close” to signing star defenseman John Carlson to a long-term extension, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday night.

“We’re getting closer,” MacLellan said following the first round of the NHL Draft. “Hopefully we can get it done here over the next few days. We’re really close.”

Earlier in the day, the Caps cleared significant space under the salary cap ceiling by trading Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to Colorado for a second round draft pick (47th overall). 

That space will now be used to lock up Carlson, who could become the best defenseman on the open market if he were to reach it.

MacLellan met with Carlson’s agent, Rick Curran, here on Thursday night.

MacLellan did not divulge any figures, but it’s expected that Carlson’s new contract could come in at eight years and $8 million per—or perhaps a bit more. 

He earned $4 million last season.

Carlson had a career year in 2017-18 and was critical during the Caps' run to the Stanley Cup. He led all defensemen in the regular season with 68 points (15 goals, 53 assists). The 28-year-old also skated a career-high 24:47 per game.

MacLellan has long said that re-signing Carlson was the Caps’ top priority this offseason. And now it looks like that could happen within days, assuming the talks do not hit any snags.

“We’re going to do our best to sign John,” MacLellan said. “We’ve said it all along. We waited until the end of the year. We’ve had discussions. We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”


Quick Links

Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick


Capitals go to the WHL again, select defenseman Alex Alexeyev with first-round pick

The last time the Washington Capitals had a first-round draft pick, they selected a WHL defenseman. They did not go off script on Friday.

With the last pick of the first round, selecting for the first time as defending Stanley Cup champions, the Capitals selected Alexander Alexeyev, a left-shooting, two-way defenseman from St. Petersburg.

Alexeyev, 18, certainly boasts NHL size at 6' 4", 196 pounds. He currently plays for Red Deer in the WHL, a junior league that has become a major pipeline for the Capitals. In his second season with Red Deer, he tallied 37 points in 45 games.

The NHL Central Scouting's rankings list Alexeyev as the 22nd best North American skater of the draft. TSN projects him to be a top-four, two-way defenseman.

Analyst Craig Button described Alexeyev as a "Smart, effective defenceman who moves the puck, plays with a calm and doesn't make things complicated for himself."