A little over a week ago the Minnesota Lynx were in a bad place. They were the only winless team in the WNBA having just dropped their fourth straight game to kick off the 2021 season. The roster was unfamiliar with each other and on multiple occasions head coach Cheryl Reeve called their training camp one of the worst she’s ever been a part of. The results on the court confirmed all of this. Minnesota was in disarray.
Fast forward nine days and everything has changed. The team has had lots of practice time resulting in something resembling a second training camp. The team’s second best player Napheesa Collier has returned from her overseas commitments and has successfully reintegrated herself with her domestic club. Despite the hamstring injury to Aerial Powers, the signing of Layshia Claredon has stabilized the Lynx backcourt rotation. The shots are starting to fall, the defense looks primed to meet its potential, and subsequently Minnesota has now won three straight.
“Im impressed with our team,” Reeve said postgame. “They all have high expectations of themselves. That’s why they’re here. So they just scratched and clawed and figured out being prideful and what we wanted to get better at. We stuck together. Thats so important because things could go the wrong way in a hurry. Losing can be very, very contagious as can winning. So we just needed to get some practices and get home and find our identity.”
If Sunday’s game against Atlanta was any indication, the team’s identity will rely on sterling defense, transition opportunities and sharing the ball. Minnesota played well on both sides of the ball but it was their defense that sparked the fast break and didn’t allow Atlanta to set up their nasty high-pressure traps. Anchored by Sylvia Fowles in the paint, the Lynx rarely let The Dream get anything easy. Instead Minnesota picked up dozens of deflections and finished with 12 steals. Those steals got the Lynx into the advantageous open court situations where they generally scored easily. When it was all said and done the home team topped Atlanta in points off turnovers 26-9.
Everything is easier when you get off to a good start and the Lynx did exactly that scoring the first 13 points of the contest. It was immediately obvious that the team had a different energy about them than the team that struggled to contain the Dream’s potent guard attack at times on Friday. Minnesota led wire to wire and every time Atlanta would go on a mini-run to make things interesting the Lynx had a response that pushed the lead back to double digits. Even when forced to set up their half-court offense Minnesota showed a patience and composure that had been missing from many of their previous games. With a season high 26 assists on 35 made baskets and only 10 turnovers, the Lynx were ultra-efficient on the offensive end.
The WNBA schedule comes at you fast. Minnesota is one game away from the 25% mark of their season. While they appear to have righted the ship after a lackluster start, they have no time to rest on their laurels. The team has much bigger goals that simply being a .500 team. A climb up the standings is in order, and it seems that the Lynx finally have the identity and a template to do so.
Minnesota’s bench was fantastic offensively as they notched 38 points. They were led by Crystal Dangerfield who had 17 points on eight shots and Rachel Banham playing her best game of the season shooting a perfect 5 of 5 from the floor for 13 points.
Fowles wasn’t just protecting the paint and blocking shots, she also tallied five steals. That ties a career high for her.
In addition to her versatile perimeter defense Kayla McBride led the team in scoring with 19 points on 4-7 shooting from three. 12 of those came in the first quarter as the Lynx set the tone for the rest of the game.
Sunday marked the first time Minnesota had topped the century mark since the 2017 playoffs.
The Lynx head east on Tuesday to take on the Washington Mystics for the first time this season. The Mystics are off to a rough start of their own as they sit at 2-5. The game can be seen on Twitter, NBC Sports Washington or NBATV and tip off is set for 6pm CT.