A Team Effort

In one instant Seimone Augustus was driving through the lane, putting up a floater that would prove to be the deciding points in a road win against Sacramento.

In another instant it was all gone as Augustus fell to the floor clutching her knee the next night in Phoenix. Augustus tore her ACL and was ruled out for the rest of the season, leaving Minnesota without its top scorer and MVP candidate.

Augustus’ absence was felt quickly on a team that had relied on the third year player from LSU as its leader on the court and off it. The Lynx were still working to pick up the pieces as it struggled in a blowout loss in Seattle last Friday to close its road trip a disappointing, but understandable, 1-2.

But, like in any sport, injuries are part of the game and Minnesota is finding a way to push forward.

“We realize how much we miss Seimone because we lost her,” guard Candice Wiggins said before last Friday’s game against the Storm. “But at the same time we have to move forward. It’s a challenge. It’s adversity. You will see it’s going to make or break our team. But I think it’s going to make our team. You can just feel everyone is not looking at anyone else. You are looking at yourself.”

It is not easy to replace a player scoring 21.0 points per game, shooting 57 percent from the floor and establishing herself as the front-runner as MVP. Somehow, someway, the Lynx have to do it.

Minnesota found some of that formula in Tuesday’s win against New York.

Wiggins scored 25 points and, in coach Jen Gillom’s words, took over the Augustus role on the team. She led the Lynx on a 21-4 run to end the third quarter that helped the team rebuild an 11-point lead it lost at the beginning of the third.

It was a win Minnesota needed to improve its morale and give the team confidence it can play well the rest of the season. Everything has changed now for the Lynx in their quest to reach the postseason for the first time since 2004.

Center Nicky Anosike said she noticed immediately how defenses packed the paint to prevent her and forward Charde Houston from scoring in the post. The two had grown accustomed to working one-on-one against their defenders as defenses had to focus on keeping Augustus in check.

Wiggins too became more of a focus for defenses as the primary scoring option for the team. She had taken 10 shots in only two of the team’s previous six games. She has averaged 14.5 in the two games since Augustus’ injury, scoring 18.5 points per game.

Augustus is such a supreme talent that it is clear one player alone is not going to fill her role.

“Every single thing we did on the court offensively went through her,” Anosike said. “Taking her out of it, our offense we noticed wasn’t as effective as with her on the court. We’ve been trying to change things up and put new things in for this really different team. It’s almost a mini-training camp again. It’s a whole different team without her.”

Minnesota changed things up against New York, implementing more ball movement and ball screens into their offense to free up Anosike and Houston down low and create open jumpers for Wiggins, Kelly Miller and Roneeka Hodges, who has stepped off the bench and into the starting lineup.

The Lynx will discover the rest of the season just what type of team they are without Augustus.

Gillom said the team will need more production from its bench to replace the lost on-court production. She also said she will need Wiggins to step up as the emotional leader of the team.

But stepping up as a leader will not only come from Wiggins. It will take an improved effort from every player on the team to keep the Lynx playing at the high level they were at before Augustus’ injury.

“You can’t do the things that you are used to doing,” Houston said. “You have to do a lot more because her shoes are so big to fill. We’ve never been the type of team that has had one person carry us and that’s it. For us now, it’s going to take everybody raising their games two notches and everything that we don’t do is magnified a hundred times.”

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