Lynx Keep Rolling One Game At A Time
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After clinching a playoff berth Sunday at home against Tulsa, Lynx personnel displayed a collection of emotions none of which falling under the category of relief or excitement.
The most predominant reaction was surprise, because as coach Cheryl Reeve suggested and her players’ faces confirmed the team is not focused on Magic Numbers or other various statistics. It’s late-August, and as defending champions the Lynx have full intentions of being part of the 2012 playoffs—whenever that clinching game happens. For them, it’s about taking it things one game at a time and collecting one victory after the next.
So when Minnesota followed up that playoff-clinching win at home with an 86-73 victory over Seattle, against a potential first round matchup in a Key Arena venue Reeve has described as a “hornets’ nest” of fan support, the Lynx proved once again they’re not caught up in the talk. They’re still the defending champions, and they’re still all business.
“Clinching a playoff spot is just part of the process,” Reeve said. “It’s not anything that our players think about. We have a lot of games to play. We’ve got some big goals as do the teams we’re fighting with. It’s nice to have that part out of the way, but it’s now coming into places like Seattle and trying to really be good because we know that’s what it’s going to take in the playoffs.”
Minnesota’s 18-4 record stands alone as the best mark in the WNBA as of Wednesday, and its current five-game winning streak is third in the league trailing San Antonio’s 12-game streak and Los Angeles’ seven-game mark. After a stop in Atlanta on Saturday night, Minnesota will host the Silver Stars on Tuesday at Target Center with San Antonio potentially riding a 14-game winning streak.
These are the challenges ahead as the Lynx begin the home stretch of 2012. Taking things one game at a time is the best approach in trying to lock up the No. 1 seed in the West, particularly because of the implications it holds on where postseason games will be played. Minnesota (11-1), San Antonio (8-1) and Los Angeles (10-1) are a combined 29-3 at home this season, meaning the top three teams in the Western Conference each hold a distinct home court advantage.
With all three eying a trip to the WNBA Finals, home court could be crucial. Minnesota hopes to keep that top spot all to itself.
Lynx forward Maya Moore said the key is finding ways to improve each day, and focusing on that one win at a time philosophy. Minnesota will finish its season with six of its final seven games on the road, meaning in order to hold that top spot the Lynx will need to win away from Target Center. They’re 7-3 on the road this season.
“Every day get better,” Moore said. “Come to practice focused, concentrating, staying together. It’s simple. The fundamentals, just making sure we’re getting all the little details right every day. That’s going to matter against the next team we play. It’s such a competitive league, so the little things make the biggest difference. We just keep working on the small things.”
On Tuesday in Seattle, the Lynx showed that persistence. Heading out of halftime Minnesota extended its nine-point lead to 64-47 thanks to a 12-4 run, but the Storm came right back to end the quarter on a 15-5 run of their own.
How did Minnesota respond? The Lynx produced a 17-4 spurt, relying on spurts from Moore (8 points in that span), Seimone Augustus (5 points) and Rebekkah Brunson (4 points) on the offensive end during that seven-minute stretch. Meanwhile, the Lynx held Seattle at 2-of-10 shooting over the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, helping create separation on the scoreboard.
Overall, the Lynx set a club for most 50%-plus shooting nights in a season with 12, passing last year’s 11 with 12 games to play. Minnesota also held a 39-25 rebounding advantage, while Brunson collected a team season best 14 boards on the night. And from a milestone standpoint, Reeve tied Suzie McConnell-Serio for the most regular season wins by a Lynx head coach (58).
“You can’t make mistakes against this team,” Seattle coach Brian Agler said.
The Lynx are approaching the home stretch, and they’re ready to take on the challenge of repeating as WNBA champions. Center Taj McWilliams-Franklin has stressed how seriously this team takes that challenge, and Moore said after Tuesday’s win that there are moments when the team looks better than its 2011 version. She said she thinks the team can take it up another level.
She said the team is hungry for that second title.
“It’s something we strive for every day,” Moore said. “It’s exciting to step out on the court every day knowing we have a chance to do something really special. We work hard for each other and know how special of a group we still have. We want to carry this thing as far as we can.”
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