Efficiency key to Lynx firecracker startJune 6, 2012
It was supposed to have been a celebration. Following the June 6, 2010 Minnesota Lynx game against the Indiana Fever at Target Center, the “Cancer Survivor Celebration Night” was supposed to have been a gala to recognize those who successfully beat the odds over their respective diseases. But inside the Lynx locker room, it was anything but a celebration.
They got routed. Indiana led by 20 points at the half and held the Lynx to 3 for 23 shooting to start the game. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Minnesota went 12-58 from the field for a putrid 20.7 percent field goal percentage, and had 14 of their shots blocked by the Fever, who came away with an 89-51 win at Target Center. After the game, Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve gave no opening statement in her post-game press conference, and none of the media members in attendance asked any questions. It was a very short press conference.
It was Reeve’s first season and her team was 2-7 in the first nine games. It was not the kind of team that she was used to coaching, not far removed from her days as an assistant at Detroit in an era when Bill Laimbeer’s teams dominated the league and won championships. Clearly things had to change. The team had to become more efficient, Reeve said at the time.
How things have changed. During her first season, Reeve’s squad pulled together only 13 total wins, with two of them having a shooting percentage greater than 50 percent. They also shot 56.9 percent in an Aug. 20, 2010 loss at Los Angeles.
Last season, the Lynx managed a 57.1 percent shooting night in an 81-74 win at Seattle. It was the first of 11 games where the team made a majority of their shots. Minnesota won all 11 of those games en route to a 27-7 regular season record and a deep playoff push that crowned them the 2011 WNBA Champions.
So far in the first seven games of the 2012 WNBA season, Reeve’s squad has pushed the envelope farther. They’ve won all seven games thus far and shot over 50 percent in all but one of them, an 84-71 victory over Seattle at Target Center on May 27, when they only shot 44.8 percent. Of those first seven victories, the team has led by more than 20 points at some point in the contest. None of the Lynx opponents have led by more than nine.
“We felt it to be very important that our offense be good coming out of the gates because of the seven games in 15 days because I wasn’t going to have a lot of practice time,” said Reeve after Sunday’s win against San Antonio. “Our offense is good. It’s gotten us through some good stretches. But any practice time we get, we just have to maximize it and try to clean some things up.”
Lynx center Taj McWilliams-Franklin said that this team knows what they have to do. “Coach doesn’t have to tell us to be efficient. We don’t spend time working on efficiency. We already know what we have to do and just have to stay focused and execute,” she said.
So far this year, the Lynx have led the WNBA in points per game, points per possession, field goal percentage, points in the paint and second chance points. They rank second in three-point percentage and fast break points. Their 7-0 start is the best in franchise history and tied for second with the Detroit Shock (2007), Houston Comets (1999) and New York Liberty (1997). The Los Angeles Sparks have the longest season start unbeaten streak with nine, which they set in 2001 and matched in 2003. So far every team that has won at least six consecutive games to start a season ended up in the WNBA Finals at the end of the season, with the 2001 Sparks and 1999 Comets winning the championship. The Lynx are also riding a 10-game regular season winning streak that dates back to an 86-68 victory at the New York Liberty on Sept. 4, 2011.
Clearly the lessons from the drubbing at the hands of the Indiana Fever have been learned. With one WNBA Championship under their belts already and a firecracker start to the 2012 season, the Minnesota Lynx have learned the value of playing with efficiency.
After the incredible season the team had last year, fans were wondering just how this team was going to top that. A 7-0 start with the most efficient team in the league is the Lynx answer.
NOTE: If the Minnesota Lynx (7-0) defeat the Seattle Storm (1-4) during their 7 p.m. CT game at Target Center tonight, Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve will notch her 48th regular season victory as the team’s head coach, tying current Seattle head coach Brian Agler’s record with the Lynx franchise. Susie McConnell-Serio holds the all-time Lynx record with 58 regular season victories.