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Target Center Providing Distinct Advantage
Each night after Minnesota Lynx home victories, in-game hosts B-Wright and Natalie Alvarado do a brief interview with one of the players as she leaves the court. Each interview concludes with the questions, “What do you have to say to these Target Center fans?”
After Wednesday’s 96-80 win over Phoenix, forward Rebekkah Brunson responded, “Thank you so much for coming out. You don’t know how much you all mean to us.”
Her words were genuine.
The Lynx have the best record in the WNBA at 13-1, becoming the second team in WNBA history to start the season with that mark, and are a perfect 8-0 at home after Wednesday’s win. They are drawing an average of 9,070 fans per game, which is the highest per-game average since the team’s inaugural season, and they just strung together three consecutive 9,000+ crowds in the regular season for the first time since that inaugural 1999 season.
Including the 2011 regular season and playoffs, the Lynx have a 27-3 home record over the past two years.
Each night seems to provide a new level of excitement and energy at Target Center, beginning before tipoff and extending through the fourth quarter. In pregame introductions, the decibels leap when “Golden Gopher out of the University of Minnesota Lindsay Whalen” is introduced, and they climb even higher when WNBA Finals MVP Seimone Augustus’ name is called to round out the starting five.
From there, each fastbreak score and 3-point basket keeps the noise at a difficult level for the opposing team.
“We had an event with the season ticket holders the other day, and I was just telling them how much they give us energy,” guard Monica Wright said. “That helps a great deal. Once you get a couple big plays, the crowd goes wild. They really hurt the opponents. It hurts them and takes energy away from them but gives us a lot of energy. We appreciate our fans and we hope they keep coming all summer.”
As defending WNBA champions, the Lynx are the team to beat in the league. They get each opponent’s best effort every night, and no victory is guaranteed. So when the Lynx have that extra boost from the crowd, they said it adds that extra advantage that combats the heightened intensity the opposition brings.
Looking around the full Target Center lower bowl on Wednesday, the ways in which fans showed their enthusiasm for the team was eclectic.
One fan on the baseline dressed like Sasha Baron Cohen’s Ali G character, and near him were two fans with basketball hats and colored hair. One fan had Lynx-colored face paint modeled after professional wrestler The Ultimate Warrior.
Speaking of wrestlers, WWF legend and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is regularly in attendance sitting on the baseline.
Student groups come wearing color coordinated shirts, and on July 12 Target Center will hosts its annual “Camp Day” for kids against the Tulsa Shock—an afternoon that Wright said gets so loud it’s like a Justin Bieber concert.
All of these nuances add to the atmosphere at a Lynx game, which is seemingly getting more and more excited about this club as the season unfolds.
“[The players] are really proud, and I told them they should be proud. They built this,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Every time we play a home game, we want to have fun with our fans. I thought we had some really fun moments, we had some really good individual plays and our fans really got into it [Wednesday]. It was fun to be part of.”
Guard Candice Wiggins, who is an emotional leader on the team through her energy on the bench and on the court, said the fans are like a support system. She said in her five years with the Lynx she has always felt a connection with the Minnesota fans, and during games they have the ability to make her smile even when she feels like frowning.
“You can feel [the energy] transferring from the crowd to us,” Wiggins said. “It’s amazing. It makes my heart smile.”
With the Lynx chasing another championship, they’re hoping they’ll continue their home dominance throughout the rest of the campaign. Reeve has stressed the importance of winning at home when you’re a championship contender, and the fans have been a big part of keeping Target Center a difficult place to play.
“Keep coming down to all the Lynx games this summer,” Wright said. “We’re going to give you a show.”
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