It’s Sunday, October 16th, 2016, and the defending WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx find themselves with their backs against the wall.
Candace Parker, Nneka Ogwumike and company are 40 minutes away from becoming WNBA Champions. The Los Angeles Sparks defeated the Lynx in dominating fashion on Friday night, 92-75 and took a 2-1 lead in a best-of-five Championship series.
Fortunately or unfortunately for Minnesota, all the behind-the-scenes work is basically done. These two squads have seen each other six times this season with each team getting the best of the other three times. There are no more plays to install, no more scouting what a player’s strengths and weaknesses are, no need to worry about the opponent’s strategy… on Sunday, it will really come down to who wants it more.
“It’s Game 4, we’re down 2-1, if you don’t bring it tomorrow, then you know what’s going to happen,” Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen said. “We don’t want that by any stretch. Everyone will come out and be focused and be ready and give what they have. That’s the mentality. It has to be better. Like coach said, she hit it on the head and we’ve got to be able to do that.”
The Lynx were uncharacteristically out-rebounded, out-muscled in the paint, and careless with the ball in Friday night’s loss. All of those ‘hustle’ and ‘focus’ areas of the game need to, and hopefully will, be tightened up in Sunday evening’s contest.
“Defensively, we have to step it up,” Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson said. “That’s really it. If we move the ball on offense and do what we have to do to do, we’ll have a shot, but we have to pride ourselves on getting defensive stops. We have to make it a little bit tougher for them.”
As weird as it is to say, Minnesota just needs to bring it from the get-go in Game 4. Sure, it’s the Finals, how couldn’t a team be ready for a Championship game? Well it may not be that they’re not necessarily ready to go, but rather if the team is running on all cylinders from the tip-off. In Game 3, you could essentially argue that the game was over after eight minutes and 32 seconds. Minnesota found themselves down 30-8, something that they can’t afford to do again if they hope to force a Game 5 back in Minneapolis.
“We went over some film and seeing the opportunities that we missed and the opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, but for sure make sure we match LA’s energy,” Lynx center and Defensive Player of the Year Sylvia Fowles said. “They’re at home. They’re up one in the series and be ready for whatever they throw at us, and make sure we bounce back when things are going low for us. Through the highs and lows, we need to make sure we stay focused on the bigger picture and that is getting back to Minneapolis.”
The Lynx just need to find a way to grind out a win in Los Angeles by any means necessary. Yes, that is much easier said than done, but with the season on the line and the ability to play Game 5 in front of your home fans, Minnesota will look to capitalize on a huge opportunity in front of them in their elimination game on Sunday night.
“You can spend a lot of time figuring out the whys, but we just want to try to be better,” Lynx forward Maya Moore said. “Individually and collectively, we just want to continue to do whatever we need to do to be the best. No matter what we’re feeling that day, we have to do our best to lock in defensively despite offensive struggles. Sometimes, you have offensive struggles, but you have to be able to stop the bleeding with your defense.”
Game 4 will start at 7:30 and will be televised on ESPN 2 and available as always on 106.1 BOB FM radio.