Lynx Focus On Defense As Second Preseason Game Nears

Mark Remme
Lynx Editor/Writer

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If there’s one area of constructive criticism the Minnesota Lynx took away from Thursday’s 87-85 victory over the Connecticut Sun, it’s that their defense—particularly in transition—is not yet up to par with the championship-caliber product showcased last postseason.

Forward/center Taj McWilliams-Franklin certainly noticed it during the game, but that point was driven home sitting behind coach Cheryl Reeve on the plane ride back to the Twin Cities.

“On the flight, that’s all I heard,” McWilliams-Franklin joked. “Taj, what were you doing? What is Seimone [Augustus] doing? Look at Lindsay [Whalen]. She said we have video tomorrow, so I’m going to wear ear plugs and put my hair down.”

But that type of defensive rust sometimes goes hand in hand with exhibition games, particularly the first one of the season, and with many of the Lynx players arriving at camp late the team has not had many days with their entire roster on the floor together. That held true on Sunday at LifeTime Fitness Training Center, as Augustus, Whalen and Maya Moore were in Seattle with the U.S. women’s national team. Augustus and Whalen are scheduled to return Monday, and Moore will be back Tuesday.

Still, the Lynx put together what Reeve called a good practice and worked toward correcting some of those defensive mistakes prior to the team’s home preseason matchup with Chicago on Tuesday at the University of Minnesota's Sports Pavilion.

“We have a lot to do and a short period of time to get it done,” Reeve said. “But the more important thing is we have the recognition of what needs to happen. Coaches are always looking at the things we need to work on, but we did some good things on the offensive end. Probably the biggest concern right now is on the defensive side of it, but defense is just effort. If we get some good work in the rest of the week, we should be ready to go at the start of the season.”

Both transition and help defense were the topics of discussion on Sunday. The Lynx open up the regular season in one week at home against the Phoenix Mercury.

“We did a lot of things in transition, making sure our rotations are correct, not just the first ones, the second ones and the third ones,” forward Rebekkah Brunson said. “We did defenses a lot but also just got ourselves back in the flow.”

Harris expected to miss 2-3 weeks

Lynx forward Amber Harris is expected to miss 2-3 weeks after suffering a sprained left ankle on Thursday at Connecticut. Harris was at practice on Sunday and wore a boot on her left foot.

Reeve said with Harris missing time it is a chance for others on the roster to step up. The coaching staff is looking into any changes schematically without Harris, possibly trying to get Moore some post-up activity in an attempt to stretch the defense.

“We’ve got an 11-man roster, and if one goes down it's an opportunity for somebody else,” Reeve said. “It doesn’t really change anything except maybe the person who was the fifth post is now the fourth post.

“But we’ll figure it out. We’re still discussing the game plans with them.”

Mama Taj gets Mother’s Day treatment

As the Lynx finished practice and circled up at center court, McWilliams-Franklin got a special bouquet of flowers as a Mother’s Day present from the team. Mama Taj, a mother of three, said she’s gotten cards and hugs from teammates before but never flowers.

She said she was touched by the gesture, particularly because as a 14-year WNBA veteran she normally is at training camp during Mother’s Day weekend. She said it’s tough for her to be away from her children, though she had a special present waiting for her when she got home from practice.

“My daughter Maia always has something special,” McWilliams-Franklin said, smiling. “She mailed me something yesterday. I don’t get to open it until today. It’s a little something she made for me. I can’t wait to get home and open it up and see what it is.”

Mama Taj’s veteran presence and her leadership both on and off the court has prompted both her teammates and coaches to give her a similar title on the club.

“She’s the mother of the team,” Brunson said. “She always finds ways to reach out and help us and make us feel comfortable on and off the court.”

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