The Minnesota Lynx didn't know who their Western Conference Finals opponent would be until late last night. The Western Conference Semifinals elimination game between the Phoenix Mercury and Los Angeles Sparks came down to the wire before rookie center Brittney Griner made a turnaround shot to give the Mercury the victory.
Yes, the Lynx are 5-0 against Phoenix this season and just 2-3 against Los Angeles. It appears as if the Mercury is the more favorable matchup, but the Lynx haven't faced off against Phoenix since July 24, and a lot has changed since then.
Phoenix has a new leader. On August 8, the Mercury announced that they had fired Corey Gaines as head coach and general manager and has named former University of Arizona and Grand Canyon University men's basketball coach Russ Pennell as the team's interim head coach.
Pennell's arrival changed the Mercury's mindset from offense to defense real quick.
"They were up around 80 points, now they are allowing around 73 or 74," said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.
Offensively, the team has gone back to relying on guard Diana Taurasi to lead its offense rather than forcing the offense through Griner.
"They have gone through a coaching change," Reeve said. "So that changes things a little bit, but as I told the players, their personnel hasn't changed. So the personnel tendencies remain the same. We'll lock in on to what their new system focuses on, which we did a little bit of today, but all in all, we try to be who we are."
Most players on the team watched the Phoenix and LA game last night and point guard Lindsay Whalen noted the game came down to execution. One team executed at the end of the game and one team didn't. She seemed excited to play on Thursday after a tough two games against Seattle.
Game 1 against Phoenix is scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Target Center.
Today's practice consisted of a scrimmage against the male practice squad the team has practiced against all season long. At this time of the year, the players want to play, and the coaches want to prepare, which means practice.
"Another thing we get asked is rest vs. preparation," Reeve said. "... Players want to play, coaches want to coach practice, so if you ask a coach preparation is good, if you ask a player, they like playing."
The players will soon be back playing, but first the Lynx will be back at practice tomorrow from 10 a.m. to noon.
Sixth Woman of the Year Update
The WNBA today announced that Lynx guard Monica Wright finished second in this years Sixth Woman of the Year voting. She received 13 votes from a national panel 39 sportswriters and broadcasters. Tulsas Riquna Williams finished in first place with 17 votes.
The Lynx, like most teams in the playoffs, have their fair share of bumps, bruises and fatigue, but nothing looks like it would threaten playing time for any player.
They Said It
"Stressful but fun at the same time, a lot of great basketball being played... It's just for all the marbles right now, this is what we work for," Lynx guard Seimone Augustus on the playoff atmosphere.
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