After Minnesota’s 81-76 win over the Stars on Sunday the smiles were a little bigger, the high fives a little firmer, and the path to a championship much easier to picture.
With the win the Lynx locked up the number one overall seed which ensures them homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs and some much needed R&R to end the season, as the first overall seed gets automatic entry into the semifinals.
This means that Lynx will be able to put their feet up and watch the craziness ensue around them. They will also avoid the stress of the single-elimination game that seeds seven-through-three will be subjected to. In addition, the squad and its fans will be guaranteed at least three home games in the semifinals, and another three in the finals should they make it there.
“I think having a veteran group we just tried to stay with it and listen to our coaches,” said guard Lindsay Whalen of the accomplishment ahead of Tuesday’s showdown with the Sky. “The plan is to keep working, we had some really good practices after returning from the Olympic break and we were able to turn that into a couple of key wins. It’s all about being able to manage different points of the season.”
They certainly have experienced ups and downs en route to the number one overall seed, but they’ve managed to win when it counts. Not only did they capture the season series against second overall seed Los Angeles, they’ve also only lost one of their six games since their quartet of Olympians and head coach returned from Rio.
The Lynx play the personification of team-first basketball; their 19.8 assists per game are the second most in the league as are their 85.3 points per game. This team may be built around MVP candidate Maya Moore, but there’s quality play splattered around the floor.
Going forward Minnesota has three games left on their schedule, two away games in Chicago and Indiana, and then they conclude their regular season against the Dream. All three of these teams have also locked up playoff berths so these games will only serve as tune ups for the Lynx to hopefully keep their all-important momentum rolling into the postseason.
“The league is good across the board,” said Lynx big Sylvia Fowles. “It’s not by default that these teams are in the position that they’re in but having homecourt advantage does mean a lot. It means we can play in front of our home fans. Any given night someone can show up and knock you off the block.”
Treating these upcoming regular seasons games with the same importance as a team fighting for playoff seeding is vital to the Lynx going forward because complacency can breed insufficiency, and the title is far from guaranteed.
For now though Minnesota should be proud of their 2016 regular season accomplishments. The squad has only dropped two games at home and if they happen to win out the rest of the year they will tie the record for the most wins in a season set by the Mercury in 2014. Yes, the journey has been smooth thus far, but Minnesota is still far from the championship promised land and still have some treacherous waters yet to navigate.