Usually this is about the time of the year when the Lynx are rounding into playoff form. Usually they are fine-tuning a flowing offense and a terrifying, energetic defense. This is not a usual season.
Minnesota lost again Sunday night and for the third straight game their offense let them down. Other than Sylvia Fowles and (sometimes) Maya Moore, they just don’t have enough players who can score the ball efficiently. Moore had a nice second half and her counting stats look fine (15/6/4) but she only shot 4-13 from the field. Seimone Augustus had some streaky moments and also added 15 points, but plays directly into the opponent’s plans by constantly settling for long-twos. The Lynx have played three games in four nights against a trio of the top teams in the WNBA. Those teams are the only three teams better than Minnesota in defensive rating. This weekend has been an exposition on how to disarm their offense.
Dream shooting guard Tiffany Hayes was electric in this game, hitting a career high six threes on her way to 28 points. Hayes is the consensus “most snubbed” player who did not make this year’s All Star game and continues to torch the league.
Atlanta made a season high 12 three pointers on an astonishing 30 attempts. Coming into this game they were ranked 12th out of 12 teams in 3P%. Minnesota had a game plan to crowd the lane and play the percentages against the poor-shooting Dream. The strategy was a total failure as Lynx defenders were slow to rotate out to Dream shooters. As a result, Atlanta constantly had wide open threes to step into. Minnesota adjusted at halftime and did more switching on the perimeter. This worked better as the Dream only connected on four threes instead of the eight they had in the first half, but the long range damage was done.
“We’re not the worlds best three point team.” Dream head coach Nicki Collen admitted after the game. “Hitting threes gave us confidence tonight. Every team is going to be a better shooting team when you get that inside-out pass. I think making threes is contagious. When you go on those runs it makes you that much more confident to step up and take the next one.”
Tale of Two Teams
This game featured two WNBA teams with opposite trajectories. Atlanta has forced themselves into the title contention conversation by winning 10 of their last 11 games. They boast the league’s best defense and are a fantastic mix of budding young talent and veteran depth. The Dream were energetic, loose and jovial from pregame warmups to the final buzzer.
Meanwhile Minnesota doesn’t seem to belong amongst the WNBA elite. Offensively their struggles stem from overall inefficiency and inconsistent output from their all world players. Defensively they are still great overall, but are susceptible to teams who push the pace. The Lynx are searching for answers. After the game Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve elaborated on this.
“(The Dream) have a strong sense of their identity. They’re playing great together, very confident. They’ve won 10 out of 11 games now. When you get like that you feel like there’s nothing you can’t do. We’re not that team. It’s hard to break a team like that who is feeling good about what they’re doing.”
Minnesota must now go on the road and pickup a couple wins against non-playoff teams (Chicago, Las Vegas). Despite the slightly lower quality of the opposition, these are hardly “bankable” games as winning on the road in the WNBA is difficult. Qualifying for the playoffs is still a near-certainly, but the possibility of being a lower seed and facing two single elimination games is very real.
-Rebekkah Brunson took a shot to the face in the second quarter and did not return to the game. It seems likely that she has a broken nose. The Machine might need a mask.
-The Lynx have lost more games this summer than the previous two combined. (h/t The Athletic’s Tyler Mason)
-Former Lynx Renee Montgomery had a quiet scoring night with only four points and surprisingly did not contribute to the Dream’s season-high mark from downtown.
The Lynx travel to Chicago to matchup against the Sky onTuesday night. It will be referred to by many as a “must win” game. Tip off is at 7:30pm. You can watch it on WNBA League Pass or listen on BOB 106 FM.