Lynx Focused, Not Overlooking 40-Minute Approach

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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By the numbers, the Minnesota Lynx did about everything they possibly could to put themselves in the best position heading to Atlanta for Game 3 of the WNBA Finals. Not only are they up 2-0 in a Best-of-5 series, but they did it in grand fashion. Both wins on their home court were by 25 points—the latest victory coming by an 88-63 margin on Tuesday night. Starters and bench players alike contributed, and in their wake they left an Atlanta team that appeared visibly frustrated.

But sitting at the podium on Tuesday night at Target Center, coach Cheryl Reeve wasn’t entirely satisfied. Yes, she was happy with the way the Lynx played and even admitted she could taste that second championship in three years. Yet the Lynx are too battle tested to look too far ahead. The reason they’re in this position is because they play game by game, minute by minute, possession by possession.

These next 40 minutes on Thursday happen to be played in the state of Georgia, about 1,100 miles away from Target Center’s boisterous crowd. These next 40 minutes will be the most difficult of the series.

That’s where the Lynx’s attention turned to after Tuesday’s win.

“When you have a crowd behind you to the tune of 12,000 and really into it, it can really carry you through tough moments,” Reeve said. “When you go on the road, you won’t have that.”

Minnesota has taken this same road before. Two years ago, the Lynx made the trip to Atlanta and swept the Dream 3-0 to claim the franchise’s first championship. They learned through that first experience the importance of staying focused and what a collective team effort could accomplish.

They also learned the mindset of desperation last year after dropping Game 1 to the Indiana Fever at home. Falling behind 1-0 and then trailing 2-1 heading into Game 4 of the 2012 WNBA Finals, the Lynx at the very least felt what it was like to be pushed to the brink of elimination.

Having gone through both emotions and battled through both experiences, Minnesota won’t have any surprises on their trip to the South. Everything is laid out before them, and it’s up to them to finish the job.

Forty minutes at a time.

“This is not the time to let down,” forward Maya Moore said. “If there was a time not to, it would be to close out a series for a championship. So much motivation right now. I think a lot of focus, a lot of understanding of what we need to do, and it’s just a matter of doing it. That’s the best position to be in, just going out, playing free and playing together.”

The Lynx did just that during Games 1 and 2.

Minnesota was spot on during Game 1, getting 23 points from Maya Moore, 20 more from Monica Wright and 19 from Seimone Augustus in an 84-59 win on Sunday night. Knowing they’d get everything Atlanta could throw at them in Game 2, the Lynx bounced back with 20 more from Augustus leading the way. All five starters scored in double figures, and the Lynx set a WNBA Finals record by shooting 56.9 percent from the field in the contest.

Over the first two games of the series, Augustus is averaging 19.5 points and shot a combined 18-of-27 from the field—including 9-of-12 on Tuesday.

The team fed off the energy inside the arena, and they reciprocated it to the fans. Understanding the importance of starting off the series strong, the Lynx didn’t disappoint in Game 1. They put on quite an encore in Game 2.

“It’s great, just to set the momentum for the rest of the series—especially being at home,” Augustus said after Sunday’s win. “Being around town, the fans were geeked up and ready for Sunday. It couldn’t come here fast enough. We want to put on a show and play great basketball, and we did.”

Guard Lindsay Whalen said it’s a long series, and it’s clear the team takes nothing for granted. There is no let down here, especially knowing how close the team is to raising another banner. This core group has been through it all before, and now it’s a matter of refocusing for 40 more minutes and seeing if they can finish this series in three.

There’s no overconfidence in the Lynx locker room, only belief. Minnesota is on the cusp of another championship, and the team is focused on trying wrap it up before it makes the flight back to the Twin Cities.

Eighty minutes down, 40 more are awaiting them on Thursday.

“We don’t want to come back to Minneapolis—if we go back to Minneapolis, we want it to be for a parade, not to play a Game 5,” Reeve said. “So we know, we’re really happy with the win and we played really hard in Game 2, but we have the ability to analyze ourselves a little bit and see if we can do better. We’re striving for that perfect game, and it would be great to have a perfect game to close out the series.”

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