Web Editorial Associate
The journey that is the regular season has come to a close for the Minnesota Lynx.
Following Sunday’s win over the Washington Mystics in St. Paul, Minnesota finished the four month long season with a WNBA-best record of 27-7 overall heading into yet another postseason appearance.
As we all prepare for the 2017 WNBA Playoffs to kick off, let’s take a look back at the dominant regular season that was for the Lynx.
Minnesota began the season just about as well as anyone could have hoped.
The Lynx jumped out to a record of 20-2 early on in the season, gaining a large lead in the WNBA standings while running on all cylinders.
Minnesota, which recorded the best start in franchise history this season, ended up becoming the first team in the WNBA this season to clinch a playoff berth in late-July.
“Maybe at times it went better than you expected and other times when something was thrown at you, maybe we didn’t handle it as we thought we might. That’s how every season goes,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I felt like it was June and we were kind of waiting to play and now it’s September. It just flew from June to here.”
After getting out to an impressive 20-2 start, the Lynx ended up facing their first few challenges of the 2017 season.
Minnesota was faced with a few injuries to its starting lineup, losing guard Lindsay Whalen (left hand) for nearly the entire month of August and forward Rebekkah Brunson (left ankle) for a handful of games in the middle of the month.
The Lynx went on to go 5-5 in 10 games to end the month of August. But along the way, specifically while Whalen and Brunson were absent, Minnesota was able to test its depth.
Players such as Renee Montgomery and Plenette Pierson saw their roles expand during the absence of both Whalen and Brunson, each stepping into the starting lineups during the month of August.
The bench also stepped up at the right time. Jia Perkins, Natasha Howard and rookie Alexis Jones, among others, came in and played well when the team needed them most.
It’s never good to see players go down with injuries, but the depth, experience and confidence that Minnesota has created due to a few injuries will be crucial when postseason play begins next week.
“I like where we are,” Reeve said. “I like that we’ve gotten through some challenges and because of some of the challenges of some injuries, we’ve gotten people some time that I think are in a good place and are confident. It will help our depth going forward as we get into the playoffs.”
Top Team In WNBA … Again
Following a loss to the Los Angeles Sparks on Aug. 27, some thought Minnesota would end up dropping to the No. 2 seed right before the playoffs began.
But the Lynx never thought that way. They never panicked.
What they knew was they controlled their own destiny. They needed to win the last three games of the regular season to clinch the best record in the league and the top overall seed for the playoffs.
With Sunday’s win, they did just that.
“We knew, unlike most teams, our goal was still intact that we were able to control our destiny. We didn’t have to sit there and watch other games and hope this happens or hope that happens,” Reeve said. “We knew we had to win our three games if we wanted to do this. That’s a great position to be in where you’re in control of your own destiny. The team really rallied around that and embraced that. They wanted to be first.”
Minnesota finished the regular season one game ahead of the Sparks to clinch the No. 1 seed. The Lynx, along with the Sparks, will jump right to the semifinal round beginning next week.
“I told our team, I really want to make sure that a lot of people recognize this group in terms of what they do on a daily basis and a yearly basis. The amount of work, the way they do it,” Reeve said. “I know it was Fan Appreciation Night (on Sunday), but I told them it was coach appreciation night and I wanted to make sure we took a second and acknowledged how they get themselves, how they carry themselves, how they represent this organization, the way they compete tirelessly.”
Bring On Playoffs
Minnesota will kick off postseason play on September 12 at Williams Arena as the top overall seed for the second straight year. The Lynx will receive a double-bye and will face the lowest remaining seed left in the playoffs once the semifinal round arrives.
“We definitely savor it, because knew how important every single game was this season. We had to claw and scratch and fight for everything. We had to win those last three games to maintain homecourt advantage and we did that while playing well,” Maya Moore said. “The postseason, we’re ready for it. I think if had ended the season winning but not playing as well, it would have set us up poorly. I’m just happy we were able to be in the position to play well going into the postseason.”
Of course, the playoffs will present a whole other level of competitiveness and challenges for the Lynx. That’s what postseason play brings out in every team.
But it’s nothing the Lynx haven’t experienced before, both in past years and most recently in the last month of the regular season.
Get ready, Lynx fans. It’s playoff time.
“Earning first place, it’s one of those things where they have two days to soak it up and recognize all that they’ve done,” Reeve said. “It shouldn’t get lost on anyone how hard this is to do. After that, they are not allowed to think about those things because how you finish in the regular season is not what matters. Where we finish in the postseason is what matters.”