Practice Report: Thursday, Oct. 11
Web Editorial Assistant
On Day 2 of practice at the LifeTime Fitness Training Center in preparation for the WNBA Finals, the Lynx are still unsure of whom they'll be facing between the Connecticut Sun and the Indiana Fever, who play their third and deciding game tonight for the Eastern Conference title.
The Lynx said they've been following the series, both as fans and as future opponents. And one thing's for sure: The team will all be tuned in tonight to watch the excitement unfold in game three.
"I've been watching for enjoyment, and I've been also watching to kind of study them," forward Rebekkah Brunson said. "They've been playing well against each other; the last game kept us on the edges of our seats until the end. Being able to watch them compete gives us an idea of what they're going to do."
"It's really entertaining basketball," guard Lindsay Whalen added. "I'm definitely going to have the TV on tonight watching that game—I kind of planned out my week to watch this tonight and not do a whole lot else."
The Sun and the Fever bring different styles of play to the court, offering different challenges for the Lynx, who haven't yet begun to prepare for a specific team. Minnesota went 1-1 against Connecticut during the regular season, beating them 85-72 on June 1 and losing an 86-80 decision on July 7. On the other hand, they picked up a pair of back-to-back wins over Indiana on Sept. 14 and 17.
If the Lynx face the Sun, it's sure to be an aggressive series in the post, with Connecticut's duo of MVP center Tina Charles and forward Asjha Jones. Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen both spoke to the two players' capabilities and the team's overall offensive strength.
"I think Connecticut has great inside game," Whalen said. "I think that they really use Charles and Jones really well. They push the tempo."
"[Connecticut is] more offensive-minded as far as getting out in transition," said Augustus. "They're setting drag-screens to free up Kara Lawson or Renee Montgomery for shots, or feeding the posts to get it inside to Asjha Jones and Tina Charles."
Minnesota would have a tough opponent in the Fever as well, but the Lynx agree that with Indiana, finding holes in their defense would be one of the more challenging aspects of the series.
"[Indiana], we had a game with them [where we only scored] in the 60s, so we know that their defense is really good," Whalen said.
Augustus agreed: "Defense, I think is the separator. Indiana has definitely been a defensive team in this league. People respect the way that they play defense: aggressive, hard. They're an ice team, don't really like to let you set pick-and-rolls. They keep you on one side of the floor and rebound the ball really well."
But it's been over three months since the Lynx have faced the Sun, and just under a month since their last matchup with the Fever. It's clear that both teams have elevated their play in the postseason, and the Lynx have as well. Whalen reasoned that, although the play of both team's star players has been solid all season long, it's the other players who are raising the bar in the playoffs to lift their teams to the next level.
"You have Jones and Charles for Connecticut and then [Katie] Douglas and Catchings for Indy, but I think that other players have really stepped up in this postseason, and that's really been good for both those teams, for sure," Whalen said. "I think Erlana Larkins has really come on strong for Indiana lately, and Briann January has had a great playoffs. And Connecticut's got Renee Montgomery hitting deep threes."
Augustus noted the play of the Sun's Allison Hightower as well.
"Connecticut has had players like Allison Hightower step up tremendously for them in providing both defense and offense," Augustus said. "The changes have come not with schemes and strategies, but with the different players that are having to step up and play different positions or minutes."
Although Connecticut and Indiana pose different challenges, the Lynx know that their journey to their second consecutive WNBA title is far from over. With the two days of practice that lie ahead, the team will hone in on their finals opponent, dissecting their play and seeking out any weak spots in their play.
"Looking at the strengths and weaknesses, to be in the Eastern Conference finals, you're not going to have that many weaknesses," said Whalen "When you're in a game three, you have to be really nit-picky on each team to find areas that they're not efficient in."
"Both of them are tough," Brunson agreed. "They're hard-nosed, they defend well, they have a lot of good outside shooters, and they also have an inside presence. Either way, we're going to have to compete, and they're going to give us a run, for sure."
For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Lynx on Twitter.