Professional Basketball

Reeve to Lynx: ‘It’s Not Ok!’ as skid hits 6


Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas drives against Minnesota Lynx forward Jessica Shepard during Thursday night’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

MINNEAPOLIS – If anybody thinks that the Minnesota Lynx, who have now dropped their first six games of the season, are tanking for an improved draft pick next year, listening to head coach Cheryl Reeve express her frustration at her team’s performance Thursday night should show them how wrong they are.

When asked if she is frustrated after her team lost its sixth straight regular season game in this young season she said, “You’ve gotta keep going. There’s no end in sight. You go back on the road,” she said.

Then, as if giving her team a chewing out, she exclaimed to the media in the post-game press conference, “You gotta win your home games! You gotta win your home games! It’s not okay. It’s not okay to come out and you need stops… It’s not okay to give up open layups. You have a team right there and you give up layups because you don’t know the play that’s coming? Katie [Smith, assistant coach] sits there and tells them what play is coming and they still get layups on us. Coming out of a timeout, layups. It’s not okay! Our fans adore us. They expect different from us. That’s what I’m frustrated with. It’s not okay!”

The Lynx have been competitive in most of the games this season. In the season opener against the Chicago Sky, Minnesota gave up a seven-point lead and were even through three quarters of play. However, rookie forward Diamond Miller scored all three of the team’s points in the second quarter, while the team gave up 22 in the frame. They lost by eleven.

In their second game against the Atlanta Dream, the Lynx kept it close through three quarters but were outscored 24-10 in the fourth quarter. They gave up a 19-point lead to lose by six.
In the first road game, at Phoenix Mercury, the visiting Lynx were down by as many as 17 points in the first half, but battled back to cut the deficit by nine, falling 90-81 when the final buzzer sounded.

Minnesota Lynx forward Dorka Juhasz drives for a layup during Thursday’s game against the Connecticut Sun at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

In the fourth game at Las Vegas, the Lynx led by three points in the first quarter and then were buried by the Aces. The Lynx were crushed, having lost by a 21-point deficit.

Against the Dallas Wings, in their most recent road game, Minnesota outscored their opponent in three of the four quarters and at one point had a 14-point lead. However, they were outscored 27-15 in the second quarter, and allowed three Wings players – Natasha Howard, Satou Sabally and Arike Ogunbowale to each score more than 20 points. Minnesota even outshot Dallas 48.5 – 44 percent in field goal percentage. At the end of the game, Minnesota lost by five points, sported an 0-5 record, and lost forward Diamond Miller for an undetermined length of time due to a leg injury.

Back at Target Center for tonight’s game against the Connecticut Sun, the teams were tied 47-47 at halftime and the Lynx were outscored 22-12 in the third quarter. Minnesota gave up 18 points on 16 turnovers. There were nine ties and eight lead changes.

When asked about being down fifteen, yet getting back into the game, Reeve said, “You’ll have to ask them. I mean, for me it’s, ‘Why do you get down 15 and you don’t play defense in the third at all? At all! They scored ten points in three minutes and we didn’t score. So you can aks them if they take anything away from that? I don’t.”

Reeve also pointed out the lack of defensive effort by her team.

“We didn’t dictate hardly anything defensively. The five three-point plays, giving up a layup by not getting back in transition… how do you expect to win? How do you expect to win when you do those things? It’s tough. Then you’re playing from behind. Luckily we have fans who are as passionate about what we are doing and kind of fueled us a little but and made some plays and got back in it,” said Reeve.

Despite the frustration, Reeve knows that this is part of the growing pains from having a young team. She faced something similar when she first arrived in Minnesota in 2010. She inherited a bunch of young athletic players who needed to learn her system, learn to play with each other, build their own identity, and success would follow. That was the nucleus of the team that won four WNBA championships in seven years.

When center Sylvia Fowles retired at the end of the 2022 season, the final player from the Lynx dynasty years had retired. It now became time to build the next generation Minnesota Lynx franchise.

Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier grabs the ball as Connecticut Sun forward Brionna Jones tries to tie her up during Thursday’s game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

As the season first began, Reeve spelled out a few goals that she would like to see accomplished this season.

“We don’t want to be an offense that is only driven by one person. We want multiple initiators. All five players have played all positions on the floor. I think that’s going to be the beauty of our team is that we’re not going to be pigeon-holed into labels by position,” she admitted.

The other major thing that Reeve insists is that this year is about learning and building for the future.

“We are not focused on outcome this year. We are focused on how we are doing things,” she said. “If we are doing things the right way, we’ll like the outcomes, but that’s not first and foremost.”

A look back at the 2010 season might give us a glimpse of what that was like the last time that Reeve was in this position. That year, the Lynx defeated the Tulsa Shock 80-74 at the BOK Center for the season’s first game. It also happened to be the first game for the franchise since the Shock relocated to Tulsa from Detroit, and it was Nolan Richardson’s and Cheryl Reeve’s first regular season game at WNBA head coaches.

After that, the Lynx dropped their next five games to go 1-5 after six games. They were 1-5 in the month of May; 4-5 in June; 2-6 in July including a thrilling 127-124 double overtime loss against the Phoenix Mercury at Target Center; and pulled together a 6-5 record in August. By the season’s end, they were knocking on the door for a playoff berth. The next season began their run of eleven consecutive seasons in the playoffs which ended last season.

The players, too, are feeling the frustration.
“I think we need to learn how to win. We keep getting in these situations where we’re so close. We could be 4-2 right now, easily. These games are slipping through our fingers, so we have to, as a team, change our mindset, otherwise we are going to continue to lose,” said forward Napheesea Collier.

“It sucks to be 0-6. There’s nothing to really say at this point. We keep saying the same things over and over again. Until we actually execute in a game, we’re going to be answering the same questions from [the media]. You guys keep asking the same questions because we keep doing the same thing on the court. Until we’re changing what we’re doing, I don’t really have anything new to say,” she added.

If past performance is indicative of future results, the Minnesota Lynx players will trust the coaching, understand the process, things will click, they’ll win games, and before you know it, they might be knocking on the door for the playoffs later in the year. Only time will tell, however. There is still a lot of basketball left to be played in the season.

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