As her players prepare for Game 1 of a best-of-three series against the San Antonio Stars on Thursday night, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve doesnt want her team to buy into the clichs that comes with the playoffs.
We dont subscribe to that notion that the slate is wiped clean and its 0-0 and its a new season, Reeve said, Its true from a record standpoint, but its not true from an identity standpoint. You cant change who you are. You cant suddenly become a great offensive team if your not. You cant suddenly become a great defensive team if your not. We take a great deal of comfort in knowing that we know what it takes to win games.
That type of intensity and focus was omnipresent at practice on Tuesday afternoon. Minnesota players took extra time after the final whistle blew to work on personal improvement. Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen put up a number of extra shots on one side of the court, while Monica Wright, Tan White, and Tricia Liston worked on their outside game on another hoop. Lynx post players could be seen on the other side of the court working on post moves with assistant coach Jim Petersen. It wasnt a novel concept with players putting in extra work after practice, but the intensity in which those drills were performed was evident.
Its kind of this weird thing when they start to play for bonus money their knees dont ache as much, their back doesnt hurt, and theyre excited to be here, Reeve said with a chuckle. This is probably the most excited Ive seen them be at practice. This is what we play for. We went through all we went through this season and I see a great bounce in their step.
Moore said its human nature that the adrenaline kicks in a little more at the start of the playoffs. She noticed an added intensity in practice, but said its all about honing in on that added intensity at this point in the season.
It happens for everyone so it doesnt really give any team an advantage because everyone is playing with that extra adrenaline, Moore said. Its just about the way we focus it.
This is somewhat uncharted territory for Minnesota as the playoffs open up in a few days. Though the team has been to the playoffs four times in the last four years, this is the first time in awhile that another team is getting more attention. The Phoenix Mercury just capped a record-setting 29-5 season and enters the postseason as the favorites to win the WNBA title.
Its a nice thing to have the attention somewhere else, Reeve said, but at the same time I know weve got some players on our team where that kind of gets them going. We believe were the best team in the league and we know that weve got to back it up with our play.
Seimone Augustus has been with the Lynx organization since 2006 and said its still exciting every time the playoffs begin.
Its kind of like Christmas for kids where theyre anticipating that big gift, she said. Its the same way for us. We wake up and everybody has a smile on their face and is locked in and the whole day has a positive vibe to it.
Augustus said the focus, obviously, remains on winning a title. Though the regular season was important, this is when the real season begins, whether Reeve likes to look at that way or not.
This is where we really find out who is the best team in the Western Conference, Augustus said. Were ready for it.
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