Tamika Williams pulled down 11 rebounds in her WNBA debut.
The Minnesota Lynx opened the 2002 WNBA campaign with a 79-75 overtime loss to the Utah Starzz on May 25. It was the first time the Lynx lost a season opener in their four-year history. The Lynx, who were playing without Katie Smith
, who suffered a dislocated finger days earlier in practice, were led in scoring by Svetlana Abrosimova
's season-high 26 points. Abrosimova also set career bests in free throw attempts (18) and minutes (42). Rookie forward Tamika Williams
grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds in her debut.
The Lynx embarked on a three-game road trip that began with consecutive victories at Miami (66-63) and Sacramento (63-61). In Miami, the Lynx shot a club-record 55.6% from the field and tied the WNBA single-game record for fewest field goal attempts with 36. The win improved Minnesota's perfect record against Miami to 4-0 all-time. The win at Sacramento snapped a four-game losing streak at ARCO Arena and came in front of a capacity crowd of 17,317.
The road trip ended on a sour note as the Lynx fell in overtime to Seattle 78-68, despite leading by 11 points (54-43) with 8:46 remaining. In the defeat, Smith connected on three three-pointers and moved past Cynthia Cooper
(232) into first place on the WNBA's all-time leader board
Minnesota returned home and fell to the defending WNBA Champion Los Angeles Sparks (76-72) for the 10th straight time. Four of the first five games of the Lynx' 2002 campaign were decided by four or fewer points. Minnesota responded with back-to-back wins against Sacramento and Portland to close out the three-game homestand and bump their record to above .500 (4-3).
Prior to the game against the Monarchs, the Lynx made the first mid-season trade in the franchise's four years by trading guard Betty Lennox
to Miami for guard Tamara Moore
. (The Lynx and Sol would exchange draft picks
days later to complete the deal.) The 60-46 win against Portland — Minnesota's fifth straight over the Fire — was the team's first double-digit victory margin of the season. The team's three other victories were by just 14 points combined. Against the Fire, Abrosimova (12 points, 13 rebounds) and Williams (14 points, 11 rebounds) each recorded a double-double. It was only the second time in Lynx history that two players earned double-doubles in the same game (previous time: Abrosimova and Smith vs. Portland, 8/8/01).
Tamara Moore made her Lynx debut on June 13.
The Lynx hit the road for a season-high four-game, 10-day road trip with stops at Houston, Portland, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Houston overcame a 13-point first half deficit to retain its perfect record (11-0) against the Lynx with a 51-50 victory. The Lynx missed a chance to win the game when Lynn Pride's layup rolled off the rim at the buzzer. A 59-51 loss at Portland followed as well as defeats at Los Angeles and Phoenix. The Lynx' record dropped to 4-7. In Phoenix, Williams set the franchise single-game mark with 10 offensive rebounds. A home loss to Houston on June 25 increased the team's losing streak to five games. Minnesota closed out the month of June with a 67-59 victory against the Orlando Miracle behind Smith's 25 points. It was the team's first game against an Eastern Conference opponent since its May 28 game against Miami. The Lynx ended the month with a 5-8 record.
Minnesota opened July with an 85-80 overtime win against Detroit, picking up its first overtime victory of the season. Smith erupted for a season-high 28 points as the Lynx won their second straight game. The win gave the Lynx a 3-6 all-time record in overtime contests. The four-game homestand ended with a one-point loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Mystics, 64-63. Vicky Bullett connected on a pair of free throws with 22.7 seconds remaining, and Moore's shot at the buzzer failed to connect, giving the Mystics the win.
The Utah Starzz handed Minnesota its second straight loss with an 87-56 blowout at the Delta Center. The 31-point margin represented the Starzz' biggest win ever, and was the third-largest loss ever suffered by the Lynx. Portland won the season series with the Lynx after a 75-72 win at Target Center. With 21 points, Smith became only the ninth player in WNBA history to eclipse the 2,000-point plateau. The team played before 12,108 fans during the team's first-ever weekday matinee game.
The Lynx' losing streak increased to five games before the WNBA All-Star break with back-to-back road losses at Detroit and Charlotte. The two road defeats also increased the team's road losing streak to a franchise-high eight games and dropped the team's record to 6-13. Against Detroit, Smith poured in a game-high 27 points and surpassed Utah's Natalie Williams
(3,461) to become the all-time leading scorer in the history of U.S. women's professional basketball
Katie Smith played in her third consecutive WNBA All-Star Game.
On July 16, one day after the 2002 WNBA All-Star Game, Minnesota made the first coaching change in franchise history. The team relieved head coach Brian Agler of his coaching duties and promoted assistant coach Heidi VanDerveer to head coach
for the remainder of the 2002 WNBA season. Agler retained his general manager role with the club.
Cleveland spoiled VanDerveer's coaching debut with a 58-48 victory at Target Center one day later. Miami defeated the Lynx for the first time in five attempts and gave Minnesota their season-high seventh consecutive loss (61-58). On July 24, VanDerveer picked up her first win as Lynx coach with a 70-62 upset of Utah. Smith tallied a game-high 20 points and Abrosimova collected 12 rebounds. The win bumped Minnesota's record to 7-15. Despite the home win, the Lynx' road woes continued as the team lost each contest on their second four-game road trip of the season – Indiana, Sacramento, Phoenix, Seattle. The Lynx mustered only 45 points at Phoenix (57-45), the club record for fewest points scored. Smith tied her WNBA career low with two points. After the loss at Seattle, Minnesota had dropped a club-record 12 consecutive games away from Target Center, the fourth-longest road losing streak in league history. Minnesota's 2-11 record for July equaled its record for the month from the 2001 season.
The Lynx responded in August by opening the month with consecutive home wins. Minnesota equaled its largest win in team history with a 24-point victory over Phoenix, 75-51. The team shot 65.5% from the field in the second half, establishing a new team record. Smith set a franchise single-game field goal accuracy mark by connecting on nine of 10 shots from the floor. The game was played before a season-high crowd of 12,544 fans (third-largest all-time) at Target Center, and the largest home crowd since the Lynx' inaugural season in 1999.
The Lynx won three consecutive games to open the month of August.
A win against Seattle followed and the Lynx notched their third straight home victory, evening their record at 7-7 at Target Center. Despite shooting a season-low 31.9% from the field, the Lynx upset New York at Madison Square Garden for their 10th win of the season. It was the team's first victory in New York since 1999.
For the fourth time during the 2002 campaign, the Lynx suffered at least a three-game losing streak as the team closed out the year with home losses to Charlotte and Los Angeles and a road defeat at Houston on the final day of the regular season. Minnesota has dropped 12 straight to the Sparks and has yet to beat the Comets in 13 opportunities. The Lynx have a combined record of 1-25 versus Los Angeles and Houston, and a 51-51 record against the rest of the league.
For the third straight season, Smith led the Lynx in scoring with 16.5 ppg, eighth-best in the WNBA. For the second consecutive season, she led the league in minutes played with 36.7 mpg. The 5-11 guard earned her third consecutive trip to the WNBA All-Star Game
as a member of the Western Conference squad. She also topped Minnesota in the following categories: points (512), field goals made (162), field goals attempted (401), free throws made (126), free throws attempted (153), three-point field goals (62), three-point field goals attempted (188) and assists (79).
Williams averaged 10.1 ppg and shot a team-record 56.1% (second in WNBA) from the field. She ranked eighth in the WNBA in total rebounds (7.4 rpg) and second in offensive rebounds (3.1 pg). Williams rewrote the Lynx' single-season rebounding records by establishing team highs for offensive rebounds (96), defensive rebounds (133) and total rebounds (229).
In 2002, the Lynx finished with the fewest wins in club history with 10. Minnesota posted a 7-9 record at home and 3-13 mark on the road. The Lynx' offense struggled as it averaged the fewest amount of points in the WNBA (62.6 ppg). The team ranked 16th in the league in free throw percentage at 66.3% and finished 15th in turnovers committed with an average of 16.5 per game. Despite the offensive woes, the Lynx' defense held its opponents to 65.8 ppg, fifth-best in the WNBA. Minnesota posted the sixth-best defensive field goal percentage by limiting its opponents to 41.3% shooting from the floor.