Wednesday Practice Report

By Philip Rossman-Reich
Lynx Writer

It would have been easy to write off Minnesota after a season-ending injury to Seimone Augustus. It would have been easy to discount the young talent on the team and write off the season before it barely had time to begin.

The Lynx have had different ideas on how this season is going to go.

Minnesota won its third straight game and improved to 7-3, good enough for first place in the Western Conference as the team reaches the one-third mark of the season, with a win last night against Atlanta.

“I always say what don’t kill you, will make you stronger,” coach Jen Gillom said. “I think that’s what’s going on right now. We’re not dying. We’re going to survive. They are playing like they are in a survivor mode. I am just extremely impressed with the maturity that they have especially being so young.”

The team won that game much the same way it has the other two in this stretch. But it was also quite different.

Minnesota got a barrage of points from beyond the arc, going 13 of 26 for the game, to help distance itself. Candice Wiggins provided her usual big game with 23 points and Roneeka Hodges scored 15 points on five 3-point makes.

But the Lynx also got a big boost from inside. Gillom said Nicky Anosike set the tone early in the game as Minnesota struggled with Atlanta’s fast-break attack. While the Lynx were trying to reset their defense, Anosike was bulldozing her way through the Dream to the tune of 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals.

“They tried to stop our outside game last night but Nicky and Charde (Houston) did a great job,” Gillom said. “I told them that there are going to be nights when the guards steal the show and then, when they stop them, you guys are going to steal the show. Then it kind of balanced out, which I didn’t think it would. It was very balanced, which is why I think it was difficult for Atlanta to get a big lead on us.”

It was a perfect mix of inside and out. But during this winning streak, the 3-point shot has been a key.

The team has made 32 3-pointers in the last three games and has made on 43.8 percent of them. Minnesota makes 7.3 3-pointers per game and is shooting a shade more than 41 percent this season.

“I think we just take what the defense gives us,” Hodges said. “We’re getting a lot of open looks and I think right now, we’re just knocking down the shots.”

The addition of Hodges to the starting lineup has added to Minnesota’s growing 3-point attack. Hodges has hit on 46.3 percent of her 3-point shots and is averaging 15.7 points per game during the winning streak and 13.8 since being inserted into the starting lineup.

The Lynx have also done well coming out of the locker room during this recent stretch.

Minnesota played a tight first half Tuesday night before blowing the game open on a 12-0 run to start the third quarter. In the previous two wins, the Lynx used large third-quarter runs to create some breathing room allowing them to easily glide through the fourth quarter. It was a 21-4 run to end the third period against the Liberty last Tuesday and a 16-4 run to star the third quarter against the Mercury on Saturday.

Still, Gillom sees plenty of room for improvement as the team moves forward. Atlanta fought back to make the game interesting in the final moments, ultimately ending in a six-point defeat.

Gillom said the Lynx cannot overlook any of their opponents or rest on their recent success, especially with the struggling, but hungry Monarchs coming to town Thursday.

“The pressure is going to start coming,” Gillom said. “I told them last night, ‘Hey, the target is now on your back.’ And it’s a good thing that it’s there because it means you are doing something great. But don’t get caught up in the hype. You are doing great right now, but we have to win 20 games. And that’s our focus.”

Jen Gillom Audio
Jen Gillom was impressed with how the Lynx won Tuesday's game in Atlanta, attacking the Dream from both inside and out.

Roneeka Hodges Audio
Roneeka Hodges has done more than adjust to being in the starting lineup. Her 3-point shooting and contributions have been important for the streaking Lynx.

Rashonda McCants Audio
Rashonda McCants says the team is continuing to work hard even with a three-game winning streak in its pocket. McCants also talks about how she is adjusting to her role with the Lynx.

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Lynx on Twitter.