The Minnesota Lynx soon will be in unfamiliar territory — the post-season. They have home court advantage throughout this year’s WNBA playoffs, but it won’t mean squat unless the Lynx do take full advantage of it. “You’re measured by what you do in the playoffs,” explained Lynx Coach Cheryl Reeve.
Now that Minnesota is there in the playoffs, what are they going to do with it? Here are my 10 measurable views (not in any particular order) on what the Lynx must do to win: 1) Remain healthy — No Lynx starter has missed a game this season. Staying healthy is key to playoff success. 2) Seimone Augustus — A player’s greatness usually elevates during the playoffs. All that Lindsay Whalen MVP talk aside, a prime reason for Minnesota’s success this year was a healthy, slimmer Augustus, the team’s franchise player. Unlike past summers, the six-foot guard did not have to solely shoulder the team’s scoring, but her team needs her to get into her scoring streaks when everything Augustus puts up goes in. 3) Monica Wright — The second-year guard must score as a top reserve. “Monica has to take shots — she’s the go-to player with that [second] group,” says Reeve. Responds Wright, “I want to fill any role for us to win games. If that’s it, I’ll do it.” 4) Her fellow reserves — Minnesota’s bench averages just under 20 points a game — second-worst in the Western Conference. This group, which includes Wright, Candice Wiggins and Jessica Adair, arguably the W’s best non-starting crew this season, must adopt “consistency” as their first, middle and last names in these playoffs. “It’s important that your bench steps up,” notes Reeve. 5) Rebekkah Brunson — Her rebounding has been constant, but her scoring has waned in the last month. Minnesota needs Brunson to revert back to her early-season form when she recorded six consecutive double-doubles to open the season. 6) Charde Houston — The playoffs typically produce an unlikely hero or heroine. The fourth-year forward could fit this scenario perfectly. Houston can put up points in a hurry, especially when others are faltering. 7) Whalen — She is one of only three Lynx players (Brunson and Taj McWilliams-Franklin are the others) with post-season playing experience.
“People are that focused and every possession is so important,” notes the 5-8 point guard. 8) Defense — The Lynx have been in the top three all season in both scoring defense and opponents’ shooting allowed, and leads in fewest second-chance points allowed and fewest fast break points allowed as well. This effort can’t fail them now in the post-season. 9) McWilliams-Franklin — Her leadership and anchoring of Minnesota’s team defense has been immeasurable. 10) Intangibles — High expectations by a team that hasn’t been this far since 2004 either can be a B (blessing), a C (curse) or an A (albatross) when it comes to playoff time.
Playoff intensity is loads different from the regular season. Will the Lynx be able to get out and run and score in bunches? Will they be able to successfully adjust to changing half-court defenses, the result of the opponent only having to prepare for one team? “How you win in the playoffs is attention to detail,” believes Reeve. “Mission accomplished,” said the team’s second-year coach after Minnesota clinched a franchise-first overall best record. “Our goal was to go from second-worst [in 2010] to first,” she added proudly.
Now can the Lynx go get “the big prize,” which is only obtained by prevailing in the playoffs? “We don’t want to be the team with the best overall record and doesn’t have success in the playoffs,” Reeve points out. Nonetheless, my friends, the answer isn’t a Bob Dylan lyric, it’s not blowing in the wind, but it soon will be played out on the court. Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
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