Philip Rossman-Reich
Lynx Writer

New Challenge for the Lynx
This season has been all about the challenges the Lynx have had to overcome. First it was the coaching just days before the beginning of the season. Then it was the injury to Seimone Augustus. Now Minnesota has to rally again and break out of a post-All Star break funk. The Lynx have lost three straight games after earning their 10th win of the season July 22 against the Mercury -- a pretty hefty accomplishment at the halfway point of the season for a team that has had to face so much.

Minnesota has been one of the top scoring teams in the league all season, but the team has found really its first struggles on that end in the season. The team is averaging 75.7 points per game during this three-game skid, down from the team's 81.7 points per game it has averaged throughout the season. With the offense slowing down, it has exposed some defensive holes that the team has struggled with all year. Minnesota gives up 82.3 points per game, and 84.7 points per game during this recent losing streak.

But with five days between Saturday's home loss to the conference-leading Mercury and Friday's matchup with the Sun, there is some time to right the ship and regroup before preparing for the stretch run. Minnesota has fallen to 10-10, but still sit in third place in the Western Conference. The team has plenty of work left though, as the team has the same amount of losses as fourth-place San Antonio, who sits at 8-10 and comes to the Target Center on Sunday, and fifth-place Los Angeles, who sits at 6-10.

Addition by Addition
The long time off between games this week should give the Lynx time to integrate new acquisitions Tasha Humphrey and Anna Montanana into the lineup. This will be the first extended practice time the two will have with the team since signing with the team. Humphrey signed with the team on July 17 and has made a big impact in a short amount of time. The second-year player from Georgia is averaging 10.0 points per game in five games, including a season-high 17 points against Phoenix in her second game with the team.

Montanana joined the team after the All Star break on July 27. Her impact has been less noticeable, but it is clear she will provide some depth and versatility to the Lynx. The rookie from Spain is averaging only 2.0 points and 1.7 assists per game in three games, but she has shown flashes of the passing ability and overall play that she can provide the rest of the season. These two players will be crucial contributors for the Lynx as they try to reach the postseason.

Smashing through the Rookie Wall
The 34-game WNBA season can be a grind, especially for the first-year players who start playing sometimes fresh off another 20-plus, potentially 30-plus, game season in college. But the Lynx's rookies are not struggling at all with the adjustment from college to the pros. Renee Montgomery, the fourth pick in the WNBA Draft, has firmly place herself in the starting lineup while averaging 7.9 points per game. Rashanda McCants has stepped up with Candice Wiggins limited by a minor injury to her knee especially on the defensive end.

But most impressive has been the recent performance of Quanitra Hollingsworth. The second-round draft pick from Virginia Commonwealth averages only 4.9 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game, but has turned in two impressive performances in back-to-back games. She scored 12 points in Friday's game at Detroit and then followed it with a career-high 17 points against Phoenix on Saturday. Hollingsworth said the presence of numerous second-year players on the team and everyone on the team growing together has helped her and the other rookies push through any fatigue from the long season and continue to play at a high level and continue to improve.

Playoffs within Sight
The Lynx have only two postseason appearances in the franchise's 10 years and none since 2004. The team set goals to win 20 games and assure itself a spot in the postseason. Minnesota got to 10 wins in the first half of the season and kept on pace for the team's goals. The three-game losing streak has pulled the Lynx slight off track, but they are still in great position to make the postseason with just 14 games left. The Lynx are two games clear of the Sparks, but both teams have the same number of losses. A strong first half alone will not help Minnesota accomplish its ultimate goal and earn a postseason berth. Minnesota plays fourth-place San Antonio twice, including Sunday's game at the Target Center and again in the first week of September. Minnesota will also get two more games against Los Angeles, both at the Staples Center. Those four matchups will go a long way to determining who will make the postseason.
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