Lynx Blueprint For Success Still In Place
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For all the battles associated with the Road To Repeat, a journey that essentially began in late April and included a 27-7 regular season record and near-perfect dominance at home, the Minnesota Lynx’s season ended on Sunday with a Game 4 loss to the Indiana Fever in the WNBA Finals.
The 87-78 defeat at Bankers Life Fieldhouse effectively changed things for the Lynx. No longer are they the defending champions. As they move into the offseason and the 2013 campaign, they will not be carrying the title torch. Instead, they’ll be working to once again reach the top of the hill.
For Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, it could be a reboot.
“We’ve got the blueprint in place that we mapped out prior to 2011, and I think now that something has been taken away from us and we’re no longer defending champs,” Reeve said. “It’ll be nice to kind of start fresh and see if we can’t keep this thing going.”
Starting fresh is a relative term. The team is still the two-time defending Western Conference champions, and they’ll still carry that reputation into next year. Awaiting them in 2013 will likely be a hungry group of 2012 postseason teams—the Sparks, Silver Stars and Storm all once again be strong opponents next year—and there will also likely be a new-look, healthy Phoenix Mercury waiting to begin play once again.
But the Lynx will be back with their four core players intact. Reeve said the combination of Lindsay Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson is the core of this future’s team, and the franchise is in good hands with those four at the helm.
When the team returned to camp this spring, all but two of the team’s players from the 2011 championship club returned. How the makeup of next year’s team will look come May is to be determined, but the group that returns will carry the lessons learned from their attempt at a repeat title.
An attempt that was challenging from start to finish.
“We knew that coming into it,” Brunson said. “We knew from the beginning of the season that we weren’t going to have an easy road. Everything was going to be difficult for us. That proved very true [in Game 4].”
Still, the Lynx finished the year proud of what they accomplished. They were 16-1 on their home court, led the league in virtually every offensive statistical category and matched the franchise record for most wins in a season despite being a wire-to-wire favorite to repeat as WNBA champions.
They did it with a collection of depth and talent in the starting lineup and off the bench as well as a coaching staff that understood how to get the most out of that talent. The end result was back-to-back franchise-best seasons for a team that in 2010 was trying to crack into the Western Conference’s postseason picture.
“I’m proud of the Minnesota Lynx and what we accomplished. Our three Olympians, our team, our record, 54 wins in two seasons after 10 out of 12 losing seasons, I think that is amazing and I refuse to hang my head or be a loser,” center Taj McWilliams-Franklin said. “We are happy where we’re at. Even if Indiana beat us, we had this opportunity to defend our title for the state of Minnesota and our Minnesota Lynx.”
The Lynx will go their separate ways this offseason, with most of the team playing overseas during the winter before returning to Minnesota in the spring. They’ll work on their games, try for international championships and return to Target Center with a refreshed mindset.
They’re still the two-time defending Western Conference champions, and they’ll look to pick up the franchise’s second title.
“It’s been fun,” Moore said. “It’s made everything a battle, something that we enjoyed because we started to get a taste of it last season once we got off to a good start and we were leading everybody all last year. So we kind of feel like it’s a continuation of once everybody kind of knew we were playing well last year, just kind of a continuation of that.”
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