It was another brutal loss Sunday night for the Lynx. Against the Connecticut Sun, Minnesota couldn’t buy a bucket, and Connecticut rained in threes, grabbed rebounds, and stifled every weapon that the Lynx had at their disposal.
This is new for the Lynx. While there have been bumps in the road, Minnesota hasn’t faced a run of inconsistency like this in a long time. What do you do when your best answers just aren’t cutting it?
“We have to move on to the next one,” said coach Cheryl Reeve. “It’s a really hard thing to do in the moment; it hurts. The fact remains that, we said we still have our goals intact. I think that even sounds hollow at this point, so I don’t even want to say that. I know we want to win a game before we go back on the road again. We just got to go try to win the next game and hope that we can get our collective will together. Which is what’s missing. We’re just going to keep trying like heck, that’s for sure.”
It’s clear that they Lynx are tired. Not just from this season, but from years and years of deep postseason runs. Maya Moore hasn’t been herself, and Sylvia Fowles has struggled under the burden of being the focus of every team’s defense. The team has been acceptable on defense for the most part, but their lapses have been harder and harder to come back from. The Lynx aren’t imposing their will on opponents, the passion that leads to success just isn’t there. That’s not an attack on the character of Minnesota’s players, it’s a reflection of how hard it is to sustain the level of success that the Lynx have over the last seven seasons.
“I’ve said this before, this is a group that’s done a lot together, that’s done an awful lot together,” said Reeve. “It gets harder and harder to be them, and I think we’re seeing that. I think in some cases they’re giving everything they have. What’s in their tank, they’re giving everything they have. Obviously right now, in the last couple games, that’s not good enough.”
There isn’t a magic formula to solving the Lynx’s troubles, just a game-in, game-out grind. With the mental and physical fatigue, what has been the issue is not the Lynx’s ceiling—they’ve looked as dominant as ever for stretches this season—but their resilience. It’s getting harder and harder to respond when things don’t break right.
“It’s okay and we get off to the good start and things go well, and then all of a sudden, we get punched in a mouth a little bit and we can’t find a way to respond, when a team starts making its hits at us, and that’s been missing for most of the season,” said Reeve.
The latest hurdle has been the absence of Rebekkah Brunson. The veteran forward was leading the team in minutes before she went down with a thigh injury, and Minnesota has had trouble without her—especially when it comes to rebounding. Brunson is the WNBA’s all-time leading rebounder, so that comes as no surprise, but it’s such a key piece of the Lynx’s identity that without her work on the boards the team has looked outmatched in that area.
As Reeve has reiterated, the Lynx’s goals are still in play. They currently hold the league’s eighth and final playoff spot and have a two-game lead on the ninth-place Aces. Minnesota is also only four games out of first place. Things can change fast. The WNBA is close, competitive, and brimming with young talent. It takes more and more to win each and every game, and the Lynx need to try their absolute hardest to find the fight inside themselves, because the rest of the league isn’t slowing down. The hits are going to keep coming—it’s time for the Lynx to hit back.