Lynx

Lynx Look to Extend Season, Avoid Elimination

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The Minnesota Lynx clinched a playoff spot as the fifth-seed on Sept. 3 against the Phoenix Mercury, an exciting accomplishment following an absence from the playoffs last year. 

After the thrilling win, the Lynx would have two more games in the regular season. If they were to win one or both, they would play the fourth-seed Dallas Wings. Minnesota lost both, bumping themselves down to sixth and having to play the third place Connecticut Sun, likely a much more difficult and complicated task.

The Connecticut Sun, a near-superteam this year, have a 27-13 record. They faced the Lynx on four occasions throughout the season, winning three of the encounters.

Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve was not happy with the losses. Reeve saw a lack of focus from the team, and was highly frustrated with the performance her players put on. “It’s a disappointing end for us,” Lynx star Napheesa Collier said after the difficult loss in Indiana on Sept. 10. 

Here’s what we can possibly expect from the Lynx in the next game of the series (and hopefully not last).

Past Connecticut Games

The Lynx’s first faceoff against the Sun on June 1 was a tight game. Down by 10 at the end of the third quarter, the team locked in and cut the lead in half, but still lost 89-84. Collier dropped the highest points in the game and her season-high at the time with 30, next highest being the Sun’s Natisha Hiedeman with 19.

The next bout on June 22 with Connecticut was not as close, but the Lynx still fought and outscored the Sun in the fourth quarter. Minnesota lost 89-68, and Collier was once again the top scorer with 21 points. 

The following showdown on July 30 was a different story. The Lynx were without Collier due to injury. Minnesota was just coming off a massive win against the second-seed New York Liberty, where Kayla McBride took the opportunity to lead the team, making 11 of 14 shots from the field and being the team’s top scorer with 26 points. She did the same in Connecticut, finishing with 19 points and helping the team win 87-83.

In a fourth and final back-to-back battle on Aug. 1, the Lynx lost by 10. Once again without Collier, Minnesota didn’t have what it would take to score a third victory against the top teams in the WNBA. Still, the effort from players like McBride and Lindsay Allen stepping up proved to be crucial in guiding the team throughout the season and into a playoff position. 

The first game of the series against Connecticut was a blowout. Minnesota lost 90-60, unable to block three-point shots from the Sun, allowing them to achieve a franchise high in points from the three-point line. Turnovers also played a part in the disappointing loss, Minnesota with 19 and the Sun with only 11, costing the Lynx numerous points.

It is easy to assume the Lynx will not come out on top at the end of the three-game series against Connecticut, especially after the first game. It all depends on what version of Minnesota chooses to show up on Sunday. The playoff mindset demonstrated by the Lynx during the stretch of difficult games in July and August is what fans hope to see in this coming series. 

Superteam Luck

The Lynx have managed to beat multiple super teams (or came close) during this season. 

The July 28 win against the New York Liberty left viewers shocked at what the Lynx could do the rest of the season. While the team didn’t reach super team status, they still came close to multiple wins against high performing teams on multiple occasions.

A rematch against the Liberty on Aug. 4 had anticipation high, especially when Minnesota trailed by only two points at the end of the third quarter. Ultimately, the Lynx ended up losing by 10, but once more proved they have the ability to compete with elites in the league.

This level of success against super teams was not a consistent trend throughout the season. Most recently, the Lynx suffered a devastating loss on Aug. 26 against the Liberty, losing by a staggering 35 points. The Lynx never got close to beating the first-seed Las Vegas Aces, either, the closest game being within a 17-point margin at the final score. 

Again, the Lynx’s playoff performance will hinge on which version of the team takes the court, but they have demonstrated their capability to defeat daunting opponents throughout the season.

Held Back by Injury

Injuries have severely impacted the 2023 season for the Lynx. Most recently and most detrimental to the playoff Lynx team, Allen suffered a left thumb injury in mid-August and forward Jessica Shepard is also out with an ankle injury.

The Lynx are down important players without Allen and Shepard against Connecticut. Allen’s significance became apparent when Collier was out, and had been achieving great improvements prior to her injury. Shepard has been a key starter for the Lynx throughout the season, and has been replaced by Dorka Juhász during her time out. 

Previously, Collier’s nine-day absence from an ankle sprain proved to be a hurdle for Minnesota. While this was a challenge, it also highlighted where the Lynx could fill the gap she left and could approach matchups like it was a playoff game without her. Viewers can only imagine what a real playoff game looks like with Collier on the healthy roster. 

Additionally, the Lynx had to play nearly a month without one of their best three-point shooters, Rachel Banham. In early July, Banham suffered a right thumb injury. Down a very important scorer, the team had to compensate for her absence as well.

Both Lynx rookies Juhász and Diamond Miller have been out with injuries at different points in the season. Early into the 2023 season, Lynx rookie Diamond Miller suffered a leg injury. Juhász suffered a hamstring injury in early August.

While the Lynx team has had time to work around being short teammates, their absence from the playoff series will definitely be noticeable for the sixth-seed team.

Persistence Will Be Key

Obviously, this series will not be easy for the Lynx. Facing off against WNBA All-Stars like DeWanna Bonner and Alyssa Thomas isn’t something the “Can’t Tame Us” crew won’t be able to handle.

After losing their first six games, the Lynx know that they have the strength to persevere, as they’ve done before and throughout this season of ups and downs.  

With the first game ending in a grueling loss, fans can only hope that the Lynx will use it as fuel. Minnesota has done a great job persisting after large losses this season. Hopefully they will channel the same strength for game two.

The series outcome may look already decided to some, but the Lynx are not a team to underestimate. The fierce, young team is always ready to put up a fight, and will not back down or be tamed.

About Amelia Krigelski

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