Web Editorial Associate
The Minnesota Lynx defeated the Phoenix Mercury in three consecutive games this past weekend to advance to the WNBA Finals against an opponent that has yet to be determined.
The defending League Champions won each contest by an average of 14 points and seemed to improve in each game throughout the series.
After a nice 10-day break before the start of the Semi-Finals, there were some concerns if Minnesota would come out flat. Actions spoke louder than words and their play proved that the long break was anything but a bad thing.
With the Lynx winning all three of their games against a very formidable opponent, let’s take a look at how they were so successful against the Mercury, and what they will need to improve upon in the Finals if they hope to bring home the 2016 Championship Trophy.
– Rebounding: Minnesota ranked third in the league in rebounds per game in the regular season and continued to dominate the boards against Phoenix. The Lynx snatched more than 33 rebounds per game even against Mercury’s 6’8 center Brittney Griner.
– 3-point Shooting: Not known for their range from beyond-the-arc, Minnesota did a great job picking their shots from deep and capitalizing on open looks. The Lynx made 13/28 tries from 3-point range in their three games against Phoenix, which came out to be 46.4 percent. To put that number in perspective, the Los Angeles Sparks led the WNBA in the regular season making 37.5 percent of their shots from beyond-the-arc.
– 3-point Defense: On top of performing well from deep offensively, Minnesota did a great job buckling down on Diana Taurasi and company, forcing the Mercury to shoot 33 percent from range. The good news is that the Lynx won’t see a scorer as prolific as Taurasi is in the Finals, the down side is that the 33 percent that Phoenix shot from deep in the Semi-Finals was actually a better percentage than what the Lynx gave up during the regular season (32.1 percent).
“Obviously Diana Taurasi kind of had her way in the series against us and over the course of the three games we just kind of got better,” Lynx guard Seimone Augustus said. “In the first game they had 95 or 96 points, the next game they were down more and today it was 67. So defensively we felt like we got better from the first game to the third game.”
– Defense as a Whole: Minnesota gave up 82.6 points per game in their series against the Mercury, more than five points more than what the Lynx gave up per contest in the regular season. With that being said, however, if you really go inside the numbers, that statistic isn’t as bad as it may seem.
The Mercury were able to put up 95 points in the first game, 86 in the second and only 67 in the third. What does that mean you may be wondering? A healthy decline in points allowed per game is a direct result of great game planning and coaching.
“I thought that everything we tried to do, which was just to be better than what we were defensively in the first two games that we played,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said after finishing off the series. “I thought we had pretty good focus and trying to get some things done.”
Although Phoenix did make 46.8 percent of the shots they took in the three-game series (five percentage points higher than what Minnesota gave up in the regular season), Coach Reeve and her staff proved that making adjustments on the fly is not a problem for the defending WNBA Champions.
“We locked down on certain players on defense, DT (Taurasi), Brittney Griner and we did our job with those players and we got deflections and that’s what we need and our offense got going,” Lynx forward Natasha Howard said.
Fortunately for Minnesota, on top of having four Olympians on their roster, they have coaches who understand the importance of game-to-game adjustments and know what it takes to win a Championship.
If the Lynx continue to put in the work on the boards, play efficiently on offense and limit their opposition’s looks from 3-point range, whether it be the Los Angeles Sparks or Chicago Sky, it’s going to be awfully hard to prevent Minnesota from winning back-to-back Championships.