Most third-round draft picks in the WNBA are considered training camp fodder, simply there to fill a gap until more coveted players are able to participate.
Asia Taylor, this year's third-round acquisition for the Minnesota Lynx, offered a gleaming counter to that philosophy Sunday afternoon. She scored 18 points with identical marks in field goals and free throws (6 of 7), whisking the Lynx to a 76-69 win over the Chicago Sky at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida. The win gave Minnesota the championship in the inaugural WNBA preseason tournament.
Maya Moore added a dash of perfection, making all five field goals and all four free throws for 16 points in 18 minutes of floor time. Lindsey Moore was an impressive distributor, earning eight assists while committing just one turnover. Damiris Dantas had eight points and nine rebounds in perhaps her best preseason performance on the glass.
Lynx first-round pick Tricia Liston missed Sunday's game so she could participate in graduation ceremonies at Duke University.
Minnesota got a strong jump in the first quarter, out-scoring Chicago 31-12. Their largest lead was 23, and the Sky only got close in the end thanks to a game-ending 17-4 run in stat-padding time.
Elena Delle Donne led Chicago with 15 points, but the team was primarily in evaluation mode throughout the game. Of the 14 players who were available for the Sky, none played more than 19 minutes as the team searches for an auxiliary option in the post. Sylvia Fowles, the team's top center, is recovering from hip surgery.
The Lynx will also be short-handed to start the season, no matter who makes the final cut. Devereaux Peters and Monica Wright both had arthroscopic knee surgery in the preseason. A time frame for their return has not been set. The displays from Minnesota's crop of rookies will help mitigate their absence, and if exhibition efforts translate to the regular season, Minnesota's bench could give head coach Cheryl Reeve more leeway in how she uses her players.
Minnesota returns home for the team media day tomorrow at the Lifetime Fitness practice facility in downtown Minneapolis. The Lynx will open the 2014 season on Friday with a road game against the Washington Mystics.