For the previous three seasons, Minnesota possessed the luxury of home court advantage en route to two WNBA championships during that span. This season, the Lynx finished closely behind the Phoenix Mercury in terms of wins and losses in addition to average attendance for each home game. These two were the best, and most supported, teams during the 2014 season.
This year, the Mercury set the record for most regular-season wins in WNBA history-- this gave them home court advantage throughout the postseason.This just may have been the difference in the Western Conference Finals. This Mercury team will go down as one of the greatest teams in league history. They are the only team that has had the chance to eliminate the Minnesota Lynx from the postseason as the visiting team at Target Center.
Sunday, the Mercury and Lynx met in Minneapolis for Game 2. Phoenix had prevailed in Game 1 after jumping out and holding onto an early lead. As the opening tip grew closer and closer, 10,513 strong filled the lower-ring of the stadium. Among the crowd was Mo'ne Davis, who recently captivated the sports-world with her pitching performance against the boys in the Little League World Series.
Sporting Maya Moore's player tee, Davis approached Moore prior to the game and gifted her with an autographed copy of Sports Illustrated-- Davis was featured on the cover of SI issued July 25th. She mingled around Minnesota's bench during shoot around and appeared somewhat annoyed with the gang of media members who approached her. Once the game started Davis joined the rest of the loud, passionate fans.
Lynx fans are undeniably a different breed. I believe they were the difference in Game 2. It sounds so simplistic, but, there's no other way of explaining it-- they are a population that wholeheartedly supports the team they love most.
As Minnesota limped out to an early deficit, the crowd got louder. Lindsay Whalen brought the ball up the court, her team trailing 1-8, and there was a roar. Let's go Lynx. Let's go Lynx. Moore was fouled and went to the line. Two points.
Defense. *Clap Clap*. Defense. *Clap Clap*.
I don't recall a point during the opening quarter when the fans sat down. I don't recall the fans ever sitting down. I do recall one fan to my right falling into her chair, frustrated, screaming at the air thinking a foul should have been called after Moore missed a layup. She bounced right back up.
Defense. *Clap Clap*. Defense. *Clap Clap*
Last October, I sat in the midst of the Timberwolves Army for the Wolves season opener. Kevin Love connected on a three from the wing with about 13 seconds to play. Bedlam ensued, his shot tied the game. They defeated the Orlando Magic in overtime. The crowd's reaction to Love's three pointer against the Magic parallels how the Lynx fans reacted, cheered and inspired their team throughout Sunday's game. I'm not saying one fanbase is better than the other. This is merely a comparison made using two different, yet similar, personal experiences.
It was my first time covering the Lynx as a media member. I hope it isn't my last. I left the game wanting to write about Lynx fans and how passionate they were that day. When their team needed them most, they showed up in full force. They understood the circumstances.
Despite trailing after the opening frame, 9-22, the crowd remained engaged. This was potentially the last home game of the season. As the old cliche goes, the Lynx, and their fans, were going to leave it all out on the floor on Sunday. By halftime the deficit had been cut to eight points. After the third quarter the Lynx were within six. They took the lead with just over six minutes to play and, from that point on, it would have been nice had it been difficult to envision the Mercury escaping Target Center with a victory.
This was not the case.
The Lynx went onto win. The crowd went crazy. Etc, etc. Minnesota has yet to be eliminated from the postseason by a visiting team. Only once in franchise history have they lost a playoff game on their home floor.
Seimone Augustus thanked the fans for comin' out prior to heading into the locker room. There were very few that headed toward the door after the game was over. Fans applauded as they unknowingly watched the Lynx head to the locker room for the last time of the season.
Unprovoked, Cheryl Reeve took a moment to acknowledge the crowd during the postgame press conference.
They were a big key for us. Kudos to the business staff and, obviously, kudos to the fans for coming out to see us. They were a great, terrific crowd.
In some ways, at some point during our lives, we have all acted like Lynx fans. Why it took me this long to embrace the organization, well, I'm not sure, but Sunday made me realize this is a group that loves their team dearly. It's unfortunate the Lynx won't have the opportunity to play for another WNBA Championship. The Mercury, behind their league leading, and record setting, attendance totals prevailed in Game 3 and will eventually go on and claim the title.
Perhaps this article will encourage a few people to attend more Lynx games next season, perhaps it won't. Just know: You're attendance may make a difference in the way they play.
If there's one team in Minnesota that deserves more recognition, this group is it. The message is simple. Support the Lynx.