Lynx at Fever
7:30 pm CDT
Getting here has not been easy. Certainly not as easy as many predicted before the season, when the Lynx were seen as the clear favorites and the best team in the WNBA following the announcement of Diana Taurasi's sabbatical, Brittney Griner's suspension, and several key injuries throughout the league.
But the Lynx have had their share of difficulties, including injuries of their own to stars Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus, signs of aging from those two and others, a step back by the brilliant Maya Moore from her MVP form of a year ago, an inconsistent bench, and a lack of three point shooting. Even after the acquisition of star center Sylvia Fowles at mid-season, things haven't always gone smoothly for the Lynx.
While they managed to finish atop the Western Conference, they were unable to secure the league's best record, and a couple of rough patches showed them vulnerable.
And yet. Here they are, one win away from claiming their third WNBA title in five years, coming off an emotional, intense victory capped off by Moore's buzzer beating three against the Fever and a loud, partisan crowd in Indianapolis, and perhaps the struggles make it all the sweeter.
We cannot, however, assume this one is over. The Fever have shown remarkable resiliency this post-season, winning two series in which they were the road team, including a remarkable comeback against the team with the league's best record, the New York Liberty, when they fought back from a huge 2nd game deficit then won game three and the series on the road. The Lynx will have to bring every ounce of their energy and talent to finish this series off tonight in Indiana. A loss means a game five back at Target Center on Tuesday, and while the Lynx would approach such a game with confidence, ending it tonight is what they will hope to accomplish.
They probably cannot survive serious foul trouble for Maya Moore again; her excellence in game three (24 points in 22 minutes) notwithstanding, they need her on the court for this one. It will be vital for Cheryl Reeve to figure out which guards have their games tonight--the starters Whalen and Augustus have struggled, but back ups Renee Montgomery and Anna Cruz have helped pick up the slack in big minutes off the bench. Figuring out who to rely on tonight will be an early task.
The Lynx also need to find a way to get the ball to Sylvia Fowles in the paint more frequently tonight. She only managed five shot attempts in game three after scoring 21 points in each of the first two games. She made four of her five shots on Friday, and she has been someone the Fever have not been able to handle when she gets it inside.
The Fever will look to exploit the good shooting of perimeter players Briann January, who has been their best player in the series, Shenise Johnson who was on fire in game three, and Marissa Coleman, perhaps their most consistent shooter. Tamika Catchings, their franchise icon, is not the explosive scorer she once was, but is still capable of a big game if given the opportunity.
The crowd will be loud, and it will be hostile. The Lynx are on the precipice of adding another championship trophy to their case and perhaps putting an exclamation point on this era of Lynx basketball.
It's been a difficult season, and a difficult series. But then, it isn't supposed to be easy.