Get Knocked Down, Get Back Up Again

Dane Mizutani
Web Editorial Associate

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Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve compared this season to a dam trying to hold back heaps of water. That water would try its damnedest to push through that barricade with each injury, with each loss, with each subsequent form of adversity that plagued the team this season.

It did so to no avail for nearly six months, to no avail until the final 10 minutes of the season in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.

“We just kind of held up all season,” Reeve said. “Then that dam broke and the water came pouring through. We just couldn’t overcome it. We had one more obstacle and we just couldn’t get through it.”

Minnesota had tied the game at 67-67 in Game 3 before the Phoenix Mercury went on an 18-0 run to coast to a 96-78. That loss ended one of the more unique seasons in recent memory for the Lynx. There was nothing typical about this season whether it was the number of players that went down with injuries throughout the year or the revolving door of practice facilities the team prepared in at the start of the year.

“This season was just different,” Lindsay Whalen said. “We had a little bit different forms of adversity, a little bit different challenges, and we actually came through it pretty nicely.”

The Lynx saw Rebekkah Brunson start the year recovering from knee surgery, only to loss Monica Wright and Devereaux Peters for extended time, before Seimone Augustus went out for nearly a third of the season with a knee injury of her own. It would have been easy for the team to take a mulligan on this season and focus on next season. That never happened.

“If we’re looking at achieving that championship, then we didn’t get our goal,” said Moore, who won’t play in the WNBA finals for the first time in her career. “There are a million other successes that came from this season, though.

“It was putting together pieces all year and trying to be consistent and hold things together. We didn’t use it as an excuse and that’s the reason I’m proud of what we did.”

Augustus echoed that sentiment. She knows this team has placed championship expectations on itself with the amounts of success it’s had over the last few seasons. She also knows that this squad fought through the gauntlet this season to make it to where it finished.

“We just fell a little short,” she said. “As far as we’re concerned this season was a success as far as what we’ve been through. I don’t think any other team probably would have even made the playoffs with the circumstance that we faced this year. We left it all on the floor. We have no regrets about what happened.”

Minnesota must now look ahead and figure out a way to get back to the WNBA finals next season. The Mercury will likely be there again and other teams like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky could pose a great threat next season. The Tulsa Shock could even contend if Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims continue to develop.

Reeve, however, still feels highly confident in her bunch.

“I don’t think there’s a better team when we’re fully healthy and fully engaged,” she said. “That would be the case this year, too. I don’t think Phoenix is better than us. I think Phoenix had a tremendous season and deserved to win and will probably win a championship this season. I don’t think going forward there is a situation where I think Phoenix is better than us.”

That said the Mercury does have a 6-foot-8 behemoth named Brittney Griner. She was a huge difference in the Western Conference finals and Reeve and the rest of her team are aware that the Lynx could use some help in the painted area moving forward.

“We’re not going to be a team that pushes the panic button because we didn’t get to the WNBA finals,” Reeve said. “We’ll certainly explore the idea of getting more help in the post … but we need find someone I can keep on the floor and someone that fits our system. That’s the challenge every year.”

Moore also acknowledged the fact the team could use down help down low, though she noted dominant interior play isn’t the end-all and be-all of a championship team.

“There are ways to win if we don’t get bigger, and there are ways to win if we do get bigger,” Moore said. “It’s not what’s standing in our way of being champions again. It could be a way to make things easier.”

And at this point easier might be better. Though the Lynx will undoubtedly still be one of the best teams in the WNBA next season, they won’t be forever.

“We know the window is closing,” Augustus said. “We want to close out our legacies here in Minnesota the right way. We deserve that. We’ll be ready again next season.”

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