Lynx clinch top seed, play first two playoff games at home

notebookOn Sunday, the Minnesota Lynx clinched the top overall seed and home court advantage throughout this year’s playoffs, which begins September 21. However, the team officials announced Monday that the first two home playoff games will be held at the Minnesota Wild’s home due to scheduling conflicts at the Lynx’s home arena in downtown Minneapolis.

“To play on our home court makes a big difference,” said Lynx center Sylvia Fowles Monday during a media conference that included the MSR. “I think it is very important to have home court advantage, to be home and be in the atmosphere we are comfortable with.”

“Having home court is something you work for all season,” added Minnesota guard Lindsay Whalen. “No matter who you are playing, this league is so tough and every team is good. You want to have that home court but you can’t rely on it. It doesn’t guarantee you anything. You got to come out and work hard, and do your best and get the win.”

Sylvia Fowles
Sylvia Fowles (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Minnesota clinched the Western Conference top spot last week in a road win at Los Angeles, and clinched overall top seed Sunday at San Antonio.

“Any time you can get a road win is big in this league,” reiterated Fowles. “It’s just your team on the road and you don’t have your fans behind you. Everyone else in the arena is against you. But the atmosphere is great,” noted Whalen.

The Lynx have two regular season games remaining, both against playoff-bound opponents:  at Indiana Friday, and at home against Atlanta on Saturday. Despite both games essentially being “nothing to prove” contests as far as playoffs implications are concerned, “We want to keep playing well,” noted Whalen Monday to the MSR.

Earlier this year, the league announced a new playoff format. There are now four rounds and the first two are single elimination: No. 5 plays No. 8, and No. 6 plays No. 7. Then the No. 3 seed hosts the lowest-seeded first-round winner, and the No. 4 seed hosts the other first-round winner.

Minnesota (top seed) and second seed Los Angeles, will receive byes into the semifinals:  No. 1 plays the lowest remaining seed, and No. 2 plays the remaining team in a best of five series. The finals still is a best of five series as well.

League officials and others hope the new “one and done” setup will add new excitement for the fans.

“The new format definitely will be a new adjustment for all of us,” noted Chicago Sky veteran guard Cappie Pondexter, when asked by the MSR during Monday’s media call. “But I think it is exciting at the same time. The first four seeds got the [first] bye and [numbers] five through eight got to battle it out. You have to bring your best basketball on that particular night [in order to] move forward.

“I think the audience is going to be excited,” said Pondexter. “I’m excited.”

“I think it’s great that [the league] re-adjusted the playoff structure. Now we will see the best two teams in the finals,” noted ESPN Analyst LaChina Robinson to the MSR earlier this month.  “There’s a chance we could see, regardless of conference, the two best teams vying for the championship.

“I think the new playoff structure has had a huge impact on the regular season,” continued Robinson. “I think there is a high level of excitement.”

While waiting their turn, Whalen said that the Lynx “will use that time wisely. We will use it as best we can. It can be an advantage for us when the playoffs start [for them].” She also pointed out that whether they are at home or away, the team still must take care of business if they wish to succeed as defending champs.

“It really doesn’t matter who you are playing, and when you are playing in the playoffs,” said teammate Seimone Augustus.

“We feel good so far of what we’ve done,” said Whalen. “There is still a lot of work still to do.”

 

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.