WNBA Finals Practice 5 Quotes

Cheryl Reeve, Minnesota Lynx

Q: You’ve been here a few times so what does it feel like when you get to this juncture?

Reeve: I think we’re still in such preparation mode. You don’t really think about the size of the moment, per se, until I’m away from basketball and I walk around town, see people and feel the excitement. When you get back to it and you’re with your team you’re so locked in preparation, the X’s and O’s and obviously looking forward to the game getting started. 

Q: Is there a lot more preparation for a team that you’ve seen so many times?

Reeve: Yeah, you’d be surprised; any little advantage that you can get. It’s taking the accumulation of four games, that’s a lot of possessions, 75 possessions times 4 is a lot, like over 300 possessions. You learn a lot. I think each of us have a lot of information and you want to apply that information and pour everything you have into Game 5.   

Q: On being aggressive: 

Reeve: I think we set the tone in that area. You’re right, they got a lot of things done but our aggression negated a lot of those things. We made our own breaks, as we like to say. Obviously getting on the glass is something you will hear them talk about. It will be a focus, so it won’t be as easy for us but it is a part of our identity, it’s been all season. This was the first game that we did it to that magnitude. We’re going to need that. First shots are going to be hard so we will need second, maybe third chances. It’s the team that’s more persistent.    

 Q: When you’ve played them so many times, you know your plays and they know yours, it kind of comes down to will and aggressiveness doesn’t it?

Reeve: Yeah, it does. We told them Game 5 is time for the players. Coaches get out of the way, this is about players making plays. Recognizing your opportunities. Recognizing those moments that you can take advantage of your defender. At this point the plays are what they are, it’s about what you can do out of those plays. It’s the little things you’re willing to do within a play, to keep playing and obviously the hustle plays on the glass. That’s what it’s about.

Sylvia Fowles, Minnesota Lynx

Q: Rebounding was a huge key for your team in Game 4. Do you feel like it will be again in Game 5?

Fowles: It’s going to play a big factor. I’m pretty sure it’s at the top of LA’s mind. They’re going to come out and be very aggressive on the boards as well. We pretty much have to make our own breaks if we want to win this game. That’s what it’s going to come down to – both teams doing the little things that give them the separation.

Q: This is your third Game 5. What’s the mentality of a Game 5?

Fowles: I’m actually relaxed. I think I was more jittery Game 4 because I knew what was at stake, but I’m more relaxed this time around. I’m comfortable with what the coach is putting us in and what we have to get done. I’m very confident that we can actually go out there and do it. My mindset is to make as little mistakes as possible even thought I know we’re going to make some.

Q:  There’s not a lot either team can tweak at this point. Is it more about asserting your will?

Fowles: Take what they give us. They know our plays. We know their plays. They’re not going to allow us to run our plays. So, it’s about what we do after that – I think it’s going to be important.

Maya Moore, Minnesota Lynx

Q: How fitting is it that we’re at a Game 5 between these two teams for the second year in a row?

Moore: It’s very fitting. It makes for a really compelling ending to a 2017 season. Both teams have been showing why they’re the best all year, and I’m just glad we’re able to really play and hopefully the game will go in a way where the best team wins.  

Q: Last game, you came out with your backs against the wall and super aggressive. It that what should be expected for Game 5?

Moore: Yeah, both teams will be playing at a really high level with a lot of intensity. That’s exactly how it should be for Game 5. 

Q: With LA winning Game 5 in Minnesota last season, does that give you extra motivation to want to beat them this season?

Moore: Yeah, I think it’s motivating for both teams. They’re in their locker room using last year to motivate them and we’re in out locker room using last year to motivate us. At the end of the day, all that matters is what we do tomorrow.

Seimone Augustus, Minnesota Lynx

Q: Coach said at this point it’s up to the players. Coaches have to stay out of the way and the players who make the plays are going to be the ones who win.

Augustus: Great players making great plays all over the floor. From the guard position to the post position, there’s matchups everywhere. Game 5, you probably have a wrinkle here or there, but for the most part, you’re going to have to do what you do. I’m going to have shoot my patented jump shot. Syl is going to have to get in there and bang. Maya is going to have to shoot her three-ball. Those are things we’re going to have get down to the basics.

Q: What can you draw from the emotions and intensity of last year’s Game 5?

Augustus: It was intense. The first two or three minutes from last year if I remember correctly were tough. Just trying to get your wind because there was so much energy in the building. You wanted to give so much effort in those two or three minutes to try to set the tone for your team. It’s going to be the same way. The energy is going to be great in The Barn. Obviously, we’re going to try to come out and do what we always do. It seems like whatever teams punches first punches the longest and pulls out the win. That’s definitely what both teams want to come out and do – try to be the one that punches the longest. We’re going to come out and obviously give our “A” game.

 Lindsay Whalen, Minnesota Lynx

Q: Last game you all came out with your backs against the wall and played super aggressive. Should we expect more of that in Game 5?

Whalen: Yeah, every night brings a different challenge and a different feel to it, but it’s the same two teams going at it. We definitely need to be ready from the start and it should be a great game.  

Q: Every game in this series has been great and there are reports out there that this is the greatest rivalry in women’s basketball history. How fitting is it that these two teams meet in a Game 5 for the second year in a row? 

Whalen: Second year in a row with them for a Game 5 and our third time in a row having a Game 5. You just want to come out and be ready to go from the start. 

Q: Does the way last season ended, does this add a little motivation for you all to be able to get redemption against them? 

Whalen: This is a totally new season, a totally new series. We just have to focus and be ready to go. We can’t focus on anything else other than tomorrow night.

Rebekkah Brunson, Minnesota Lynx

Q: What would it mean to win your fifth title here at home?

Brunson: Just to win the title here in front of these fans would be amazing. No matter what it is — fifth for me, one for some. [With] this group, these fans have been behind us the whole way. They’re always here for the ups and downs. They always support us. It would be exciting to be able to win here.

Q: Coach Reeve said both teams are learning more about each other. Would you say that’s true for you in terms of how you found your way through and impacted the series?

Brunson: I think that’s the good thing about having a series with two great teams. It’s about changing, making adjustments and making the little things happen out there. I’m sure they’re saying the same thing. Nobody in here and nobody out there is going to be saying much different. I think we know each extremely well at this point. Now, it’s just time to play.

Q: What can you draw from the atmosphere and intensity of last year’s Game 5?

Brunson: It’s a new game. It’s not the same Game 5. That game has not been decided yet. I think that’s the most important thing. We have an opportunity in front of us to change the way the story ended last year.

Q: What’s the mentality of Game 5? Is it a little bit different?

Brunson: It could possibly be, but I think it’s going to come down to energy and efficiency. Whoever comes there is more aggressive – you can even look at our past games – and see that whoever has been the aggressor has been the one to win the game. Game 5 will be intense. It’s exhausting. You just have to keep pushing through, fighting through, battling and then, you see what happens.

 Brian Agler, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: What’s it like to coach in a Game 5. Do you coach it differently than another game?

Agler: You try to keep it as simple as possible, try to eliminate any distractions that way. I know that there’s a lot more of this, but it’s still going to be determined by what happens out there between the lines. You just try to keep it simple for the players, make it easy so they can come out here and play free.

Q: The last 12 times you played in the regular season, both teams were tied in points 908-908. When you know each other as well as you do, does it go beyond x’s and O’s when you get to a Game 5?

Agler: I think both teams have been saying that all year long. That’s a big part of it. I don’t think this is going to end in a draw. That number is very interesting, but we don’t give it much thought because it’s one of those deals. These are both very good teams, they compete hard against each other, and we are to this point it’s been back and forth. Both teams have had their share of success.

 Q: You’ve talked a lot about rebounding and that you all are a different team when you don’t have to take the ball to the middle.

Agler: Not only that, it’s how good they are on the boards. It really helps fuel their offense and they’re good at it. They emphasize it. They produce. Those things aren’t going to change, so it’s going to be how well we keep them from doing it.

 Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: After watching film, are there any adjustments to your rebounding?

Ogwumike: I think it’s all about just getting the boards. We want to do it, but you really have to keep it in your mind constantly every possession for 40 minutes. For us it’s less X’s and O’s.

Q: As last year’s MVP and facing this year’s MVP Sylvia Fowles, talk about playing against each other.

Ogwumike: It speaks to the rivalry. We actually just saw a very interesting graphic on the WNBA’s Instagram – in the last 12 meetings we are tied 908-908, which I think is pretty spectacular. That speaks to the evolution of the game, the evolution of this competition that we have between each other. I would hope that everybody enjoys watching it as much as we love playing it.

Q: With both of these teams knowing each other so well, does Game 5 come down to the intangibles?

Ogwumike: Yes, for sure. At this point playing each other 12 times in the past two years, we know each other inside and out so you really have to rely on those plays that you don’t necessarily see on the stat sheet.

Candace Parker, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: What is your mentality going into Game 5?

Parker: We can look at it as a disappointment that we’re playing in a Game 5 or we can look at it as an opportunity. I think that if you poll anyone anywhere around the league that if you have one game and an opportunity to win a championship would you take it. I’m pretty sure everybody would take that. So that’s the mentality we have to have going in. It’s not going to be easy. There’s a lot of things that you can reflect on after Game 4 and this entire series of what we can do differently.

Q: Talk about the rebounding in Game 4.

Parker: I think it’s rebounding and fouling. We took them to the line. I think Rebekkah had 13 free throws. They shot 30 free throws and it would have almost been better for them to shoot a better percentage from the free throw line because when they missed it was another offensive rebounding opportunity. I think it’s both ways. We weren’t necessarily in our best flow offensively, even with taking the ball out of bounds. We have to do a better job of controlling the glass and making things difficult for them.

Q: Does either team have any tricks that we haven’t seen after playing each other 12 times in the past two years.

Parker: If there were I don’t know if either of us would tell you. You’ve seen the matchup. You’ve seen how many times we’ve played. It’s no secret.

Alana Beard, Los Angeles Sparks

Q: What is the team’s mentality heading into Game 5?

Beard: Game 5 is go time as Coach Agler would say. It’s sort of been the same headline throughout this entire series. With these two teams, it doesn’t come down to X’s and O’s anymore. It’s about the intangibles and that is exactly what Game 5 is going to be – a game of intangibles.

Q: Do you have any surprises in store for tomorrow?

Beard: Absolutely not. There is nothing you can change at this point. It’s about how much you want it and how hungry you are to get what you really want.

Q: Talk about any defensive adjustments that you’re making for Game 5.

Beard: It’s going to come down to defense. Two teams that are very capable of doing amazing things offensively. It’s our job and our mindset to make it as hard as possible. I’m sure it’s the same for them. There is no other way to explain it other than this will be a game of intangibles and defense is a part of that.