Lynx Face Biggest Test Since Break On Tuesday

Mark Remme
Lynx Editor/Writer

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Scouting for the San Antonio Silver Stars seems eerily familiar for the Minnesota Lynx. If there’s one team in the WNBA that has similar strengths and tendencies, it’s probably the Silver Stars.

“I said that to our players a long time ago that you do feel like you look in the mirror a little bit when you play San Antonio,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “They do have the unselfish play, they’ve got the chemistry.”

And there’s one other thing: They win, too.

So when the Lynx and Silver Stars match up on Tuesday at Target Center, it will likely be the biggest game of the season to date. The teams have faced each other twice this year—each earning a win—but none have come at this juncture of the season with playoff positioning on the line. Minnesota is on a six-game winning streak and San Antonio has won 13-of-14 coming in.

The challenge for the Lynx will be taking advantage of their home court and their Target Center fans.

The Lynx still hold a one-game lead over Los Angeles and a two-game edge over the Silver Stars, but the gap is tight. All three teams atop the Western Conference boast near-perfect home records—Minnesota, L.A. and San Antonio are a combined 32-3 at home—and holding onto that top spot for home court advantage would mean a lot come October.

After this four-game home stand, Minnesota will finish the regular season with six of their final seven games on the road.

“That makes it much more important—to come in here and play well here and get some wins because we’re not going to be here for a while,” forward Rebekkah Brunson said. “We’re going to be away, and we’re going to be fighting on the road.”

Home or away, both teams have been stellar dating back before the break.

Since June 24, the Silver Stars have the best record in the WNBA at 13-1. That stretch included a 12-game winning streak that lasted until falling to Los Angeles—currently second in the West, one game behind Minnesota—101-77 on Aug. 23.

The streak began with back-to-back wins over the Sparks on June 24 and June 28 by a combined 34 points. The Silver Stars followed those wins up with a 93-84 victory over the Lynx, showing San Antonio has what it takes to compete with the top teams in the Western Conference. That 12-game winning streak helped push the Silver Stars up to within two games of the Lynx in the standings, creating a logjam of teams vying for the top spot in the conference with 11 games to play.

But thing have changed in Minnesota since that loss to San Antonio, which was part of a three-game skid a week before the break. Since those losses, the Lynx are on a six-game winning streak and are beating their opponents by 18.7 points per game during that stretch.

“We’ve just got to keep our consistency going,” guard Erin Thorn said. “We’ve played really well since the break. We’re just trying to continue defensively and offensively.”

Reeve said the key to beating San Antonio is contesting their 3-point game. The Silver Stars are third in the WNBA in 3-point percentage and are second only to the Lynx in point-differential, field goal percentage, assists per game and assist-differential per game.

Containing San Antonio’s perimeter shooting and handling guard Becky Hammon’s drives to the hoop are two of the Lynx’s main concerns defensively. Brunson said crashing the boards and holding San Antonio to single-shot possessions will be crucial.

Reeve said Minnesota made defensive adjustments after their 93-84 loss in San Antonio on July 1.

“We learned a lot about our defense and things we need to adjust to be successful long term,” Reeve said. “We’ve done that since we’ve played them, and we’ll just have to see how it goes tomorrow night.”

No question the Lynx hope to feed of their fan base at Target Center against a team they could see come playoff time.

“We have that great energy feeding off the fans, and that really gives us that extra push that sometimes you need in these tough games against these tough team,” Thorn said. “These fans will carry us over the top sometimes.”

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