‘The Barn’ hosts Lynx home playoffs

This series will cover the WNBA’s 21st season with at least one story on the league weekly from the season’s May 13 opening to its closing on September 3 and through the 2017 playoffs.

The 2017 WNBA Playoffs begin Wednesday with pro basketball’s own “lightning round.” “Coaches don’t like it,” Washington Coach Mike Thibault complained after Sunday’s regular season finale against Minnesota. “Coaches prefer playoff series.”

His Mystics host Dallas in one of two first-round knockout games Wednesday — Seattle plays at Phoenix.  “Skylar [Diggins-Smith] is having a terrific year. They try to beat you up, and they are good at it. They do foul a lot, but you can’t put them on the free throw line,” reported the coach.

Wednesday’s winners advance to the second one-and-done round on Sunday to face either Connecticut or New York.

“I do like the new playoff structure,” admitted longtime Fox Sports North Analyst Lea B. Olsen on the setup, now in its second post-season. “I like the thought of one game and you are out.”

Minnesota and Los Angeles, who finished one-two respectively in the regular season, are in the semifinals, which begin Tuesday, September 12.

Lea B. Olsen (Photo by Onika Nicole Cra

“They got four or five of the best players in the league on that team,” stated Thibault on the Lynx. “If you try to double team on one,” such as center Sylvia Fowles, “you leave space” for her teammates Seimone Augustus, Renee Montgomery, Rebekkah Brunson and Maya Moore to get off, he duly noted. “They all make threes.”

Nonetheless, the Lynx after two days off will return to practice Wednesday to clean up some things and prepare for the stretch drive, several players told us Sunday.

“We set a good tone these last three games,” noted guard Lindsay Whalen.

“We are going to be back to work on Wednesday. We’ll be ready,” added Fowles. “We have to be ready overall no matter who’s the opponent. Everything we do, we got to do it a little bit more.”

Moore said, “We achieved our first goal to be regular season champs, to finish with the best record so we can better ourselves to play our best basketball. We’ll be anxious to play again.”

Minnesota now moves back across the river, but not back downtown. The Lynx return to Williams Arena, “The Barn,” for the first time since 2007 for their playoff home games. Could the famed raised floor be an added advantage for the hosts?

“There is a psychological aspect to running on that court and thinking about falling off,” Olsen, who played her college ball there, pointed out. With the building better suited for hoops than was the St. Paul hockey arena Minnesota played in this season, when the Barn gets rocking it can be really loud.

“There is an aura in that building,” stated Olsen.


A Midwest first

Minnesota, as announced last weekend, will host the 2018 WNBA All Star Game, the first time in league history the midseason classic will be held in the Midwest.

“We look forward to working closely with the Minnesota Lynx to showcase our city and state…to the nation and to the world,” Melvin Tennant, Meet Minneapolis CEO, told the MSR.   He has been instrumental in successfully bringing the WNBA All-Star Game, the Super Bowl, and the Women’s Hockey championship to the area next year.


Yes, he said it…

“She’s on a roll right now,” said Mystics Coach Mike Thibault on the Lynx’s Maya Moore, whose 26-point effort Sunday vs. Washington was two off her season high.


Check out our WNBA Playoffs coverage on MSR News Online.

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