Crystal Dangerfield had just made one of few mistakes in the fourth quarter Friday night. With the Lynx leading by one with 15 seconds to play, the second-year point guard was trapped by Atlanta, and tied up for a jump ball.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve took some fault for the sequence. She knew Dangerfield would be trapped, but thought the guard may have enough speed to get out of it.
Instead, standing at 5-foot-5, Dangerfield had to take a jump ball against the 5-foot-8 Courtney Williams with the game on the line.
Dangerfield won it, directing the ball toward Napheesa Collier, who was fouled. It was a critical play in Minnesota’s 86-84 victory, and likely one of the first jump balls Dangerfield has ever won. How’d she do it?
“I fired up my quads!” Dangerfield said mid-laugh. “That’s what Cheryl asks us to do the entire day. I fired up my quads and got up there.”
Put simply, Dangerfield did what she had to do late to help the Lynx earn a win. That’s what the guard has done ever since she entered the league in 2020. Winning time is Dangerfield’s time.
That was on full display again Friday. Dangerfield had just three points on 0 for 2 shooting through three quarters. In the fourth, she had 10 points on a perfect 4-for-4 shooting, leading Minnesota back from a seven-point deficit to claim victory.
“Amazing,” recently-signed veteran guard Layshia Clarendon said of Dangerfield’s performance.
“Really got a nice rhythm, and she’s hard to play against,” Reeve said. “I thought Crystal, she showed a lot of confidence, and we saw that last year in the bubble.”
Indeed. Dangerfield averaged 6.5 points in the fourth quarter in 2020 — second-most in the WNBA — while shooting 58 percent from the field. In her fourth-quarter minutes in 2020, the Lynx out-scored their opponents by 17.3 points per 100 possessions.
“So we know she likes the fourth quarter,” Reeve said.
Dangerfield is starting to have a similar effect in 2021, where Minnesota is out-scoring its opponents by 10.2 points per 100 possessions with Dangerfield on the floor in the final frame.
It was Dangerfield who hit the mid-range jumper in the final seconds of regulation last Sunday against Connecticut to send that game to overtime.
She is a closer.
Reeve credited assistant coach Katie Smith for the idea to have Dangerfield and Clarendon share the floor. The two guards worked in strong unison Friday.
Dangerfield has bounced back and forth between starting and coming off the bench this season. She said no matter when she enters the game, her duties are the same — push the pace and bring the energy. Still, her play, at times, has been as inconsistent as her role. Perhaps that’s to be expected for a young player.
But whether Dangerfield starts the game or not, one thing is coming into focus — she should finish it.
“She has that never-fazed mentality about her,” Clarendon said. “You can kind of see that UConn-ness about her, doesn’t get rattled when she makes mistakes, and I think that’s a really good trait to have in a point guard.”