Inside Presence, Defense Key For Lynx

Mark Remme
Lynx Editor/Writer

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The Minnesota Lynx are recognized league-wide for their dangerous perimeter players, and it’s no surprise why. Three of their starters who stretch the floor—Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore— are members of the U.S. Olympic team and are the primary targets of opposing WNBA squad’s scouting reports. Add in Monica Wright and Candice Wiggins, and the Lynx simply keep coming at teams with 3-point shooting and slashing ability regardless who is on the floor.

But in its 4-0 start to the season leading into Wednesday’s road game against Washington, Minnesota continues to show it is equally talented and dangerous in its front court—a group of aggressive, defensive-oriented players who have helped give the Lynx a distinct advantage in the paint during their unbeaten start.

In its first four games, Minnesota owns a 170-104 points in the paint advantage over its opponents, a 66-point cushion that has helped the Lynx win those four games by an average of 15.3 points a night. It’s a collective effort, but the interior intensity—particularly on the defensive end that leads to that lofty point disparity—begins with Rebekkah Brunson, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Jess Adair, Devereaux Peters and Amber Harris.

“I think it’s our defense,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We don’t let people score in the paint.”

The Lynx have put up some staggering numbers near the basket this season. Their 58 points in the paint against Phoenix on opening day were the most in a single game in franchise history. They’re holding opponents to 26.0 points per game in the paint, including giving up 18 to Seattle on Sunday.

More than anything, it’s a product of the team’s mindset. Minnesota’s front court patrols the paint with a purpose, never letting the opposition gain the upper hand near the basket. They’re stopping perimeter players from penetrating to the hoop, and so far this year the Lynx have made it difficult for centers and power forwards to gain a favorable post-up position.

Reeve said the team put together its most well-rounded defensive game on Sunday against Seattle, and Brunson said making sure the unit is working as one is crucial.

“Just having each other’s backs defensively, not letting them get extra points off the offensive rebounds and not letting them get easy buckets,” Brunson said. “We have a good point presence as well. Our guards have a lot of attention, so when they get that attention out there we’re going to be there to get those easy ones.”

Rebounding has been an important factor. The Lynx have out-rebounded their opponents in each of their first four games, holding a 8.5 boards per game advantage in that span, and have pulled down more offensive rebounds than their opponents in three of those four meetings.

On Sunday against the Storm, Minnesota had as many defensive boards (27) as Seattle had total rebounds.

“Our post players work hard. We work hard and we work well together,” Adair said. “We help each other out. When one is down and out, someone is there to pick them up. I think just because we have that work ethic in the paint, I think that’s why we beat other teams in that area.”

With the team’s inside game holding such a firm advantage in the box score, it gives Minnesota overpowering balance.

“I think this team is good because we’re able to do it from every position,” Brunson said. “We don’t have to depend on Seimone to score 25 every night, even though she easily could. But we have a group that can do it from inside and outside.”

Still, the Lynx aren’t satisfied. They’re still looking to improve their interior presence.

“We still have some certain areas that can get better, fighting the post, so I think we have a ways to go,” Adair said. “Which is scary for other teams.”

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