Before the Lynx went to New York for Wednesday’s game against the Liberty, coach Cheryl Reeve made an admission.
When it came to Danielle Robinson, she had done a bad job coaching her. She had to be more patient with her speedy point guard. She had to go with plays — and game plans — that played to Robinson’s strengths. When it came to the Lynx offense, Reeve said, she had to make a lot of changes in general.
And she has.
The bad news is the Lynx lost in New York and again Friday at home against league-leading Connecticut. The offense, filled with new faces and younger players, is still a work in progress; witness the fourth quarter of Friday’s game. Down a point entering the final quarter, the Lynx made just five of 14 shots and turned the ball over while losing 85-81 to the Sun.
But the good news is Reeve sees progress.
The past two games Reeve has seen her team get more good looks at high-percentage shots than the team did in the first six games. That hasn’t always translated into points; the Lynx shot a horrendous 29.3% in the first half of the loss in New York. But that had more to do with players missing good shots than what the Liberty was doing defensively.
In the second half of that game the Lynx shot 57.1%. Friday the Lynx cut down on their turnovers overall, and scored 81 points, the second-highest total of the season. That’s significant considering the Sun came into the game with the league’s best defensive rating.
Going forward, defense is still going to be the key to the Lynx winning, and defense was the reason for Friday’s loss. But the offense is getting better, in terms of pace and execution, Reeve said.
And that started with her decision to let Robinson go, have her push the pace.
And a lot of that came because Reeve and her staff winnowed the playbook, simplifying things.
“Our defense was really good,’’ Reeve said of her team’s start to the season. “But, off defensive rebounds we were playing the slowest of any team in the league. That makes zero sense. We talked in training camp about longer outlets, pushing the pace. Somewhere in there, it got lost in the shuffle.’’
The idea is for the Lynx to push the pace while not getting bogged down by overthinking.
“This is not an execution team, not yet,’’ Reeve said. “We basically looked at it and said, ‘What do we look good running?’ So, cut, cut. Anything we didn’t look good running, and stick with what we do. We tried to shorten it.’’
That started with the point guard.
“She told me to push it with a little more pace,’’ Robinson said. “I think part of it was, we weren’t running that well in transition, so that [slowed] me. She just told me, ‘Push it and they’ll catch up.’ I think that helped our offensive game.’’
Through the first six games Robinson shot 34% overall, 38.1 on two-point shots, while averaging 2.3 assists per game. In the last two she has shot 41.7% overall, 60 percent on two-point shots and averaged five assists per game.
Robinson will continue to be part of a guard rotation that also will give significant minutes to Lexie Brown. And she’s OK with that. She also likes Reeve’s decision to play both simpler and faster.
“We were running a bit too many sets,’’ she said. “I think it was confusing a lot of people. We narrowed it down, and I think that definitely helped.’’
On Sunday, the Lynx host Las Vegas, a team that comes to Target Center just 3-3, but coming off a 100-65 victory at home over New York.
The Aces are first in the league in defensive rating (89.1), net rating (plus 10.3) and rebounding percentage.