Lynx Ready For Yet Another Playoff Run
Minnesota capped its fourth-straight 25-plus-win season with an 80-63 victory over the Tulsa Shock on Saturday. It became the first team in WNBA history to accomplish that feat with the win, and has yet again imbued itself as one of the best teams in the league as only the Phoenix Mercury finished the season with a better overall record.
Those regular-season records, however, go out the window Thursday night with the start of the WNBA playoffs.
The Lynx have spent the last week or so scoreboard watching — whether players will admit it or not — as most playoff matchups weren’t set in stone until Sunday afternoon. It was either the Los Angeles Sparks or San Antonio Stars, two teams the Lynx have had success against this season and two teams that beat the Lynx last week during a season-long, three-game losing streak.
Minnesota can now shift its focus solely on the Stars after San Antonio defeated the Chicago Sky 84-72 on Sunday. Phoenix will host Los Angeles in the other first-round matchup in the Western Conference.
The Lynx have faced the Stars five times this season and hold a 4-1 record in those games. They methodically dominated the first four games of the season series, but came out flat against San Antonio last week.
Though it lost to the Stars by 16 points on Friday, this first-round series is actually a very favorable one for Minnesota, as it matches up better against San Antonio than it does with Los Angeles.
The Lynx lack size in the frontcourt compared to other teams in the WNBA. The team’s tallest player that plays significant minutes —Janel McCarville — stands at 6-foot-2 and makes her living away from the bucket. Rebekkah Brunson is generously listed at 6-foot-2 as well, and sometimes runs into trouble against bigger foes.
San Antonio starts Jayne Appel and Danielle Adams down low, 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-1, respectively. Los Angeles, on the other hand, starts a pair of 6-foot-4 players on the low block. Minnesota doesn’t give much in terms of size when matched up against the Stars, and holds the well-defined advantage on the perimeter with Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus leading the charge.
That bodes well for the Lynx as they take aim at another title.
Though matchups are a popular thing to look at before the series starts, Minnesota knows it controls its own destiny, and the players know the burden is on themselves if they aren’t crowned champions at the end of the season.
“It's going to take defense [to repeat],” Moore said. “We know if we play defense to the best of our abilities, we can be as good as we want to be. That's really our main focus and being connected and discipline.”
“That's all we ever talk about,” she said. “We’re a very talented team on the offensive end…but we have to turn it up on defense.”
Moore has been the team’s most active defender this season as she leads Minnesota with more than 150 deflections. She’s said countless times that when she’s locked in on defense, her offense tends to follow suit. She and the rest of her teammates will need to practice the things they preach Thursday against San Antonio as that roster boasts some of the best three-point shooters in the WNBA.
Kayla McBride and Danielle Robinson have led the Stars this season, but the 10-year veteran Jia Perkins has been a useful sparkplug off the bench as of late. Those three will likely need to keep San Antonio in the game against the potent offense the Lynx bring forth.
Minnesota didn’t lose in the playoffs last year — seven straight wins — en route to its second WNBA title in the last three seasons. The team hopes to accomplish the same feat this season, but players and coaches know the road will be a little tougher this time around with 29-5 Mercury potentially waiting in the wings for the second round of the playoffs.
Augustus said Phoenix is the furthest thing from her mind at this point in the season, and that the Stars are the team’s singular focus.
“We can't get to Phoenix unless we beat San Antonio,” she said. “That's what we’re focused on. ... We know Phoenix is out there, but hell, they've got to beat Los Angeles to get to us. We don't want to look too far ahead and put all our eggs in one basket too early.”
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