The Lynx’s flight from Washington, D.C., touched down in the Twin Cities on Monday afternoon. During a few moments spent talking to some assembled media, two themes came through loud and clear:
• The team wants a concerted effort to get Williams Arena filled for the upcoming WNBA Finals with the Los Angeles Sparks. Game 1 is Sunday.
• The Lynx are thrilled to be playing the Sparks. Not for a revenge factor for last year’s Game 5 loss to the Sparks (they say). But because these are the two best teams in the league — by far — and that makes the competition that much better.
“Two great teams, a lot of great players,” Lindsay Whalen said. “That’s what you play for. You want to be in these types of series.”
Whalen said all along that Williams Arena could — and should — be a big home-court advantage. Her teammates are now believers. The Lynx drew just over 9,000 fans for Game 2 of their semifinal series with Washington. And that place was loud.
“It was crazy,” Seimone Augustus said. “It was loud to the point where we couldn’t hear the play calls. We could only see the visuals. That’s the atmosphere we need in order to have that advantage. So when L.A. gets here, I know the Barn is going to be rocking.”
One of the first things coach Cheryl Reeve talked about after her team swept the Mystics in Game 3 Sunday was the need to fill the Barn for the WNBA Finals. Lynx players are taking up that campaign, as well.
“Lindsay has introduced it to us as our home, so it’s our home,” said MVP center Sylvia Fowles, whose team resumes practice Wednesday. “I love the echoes, the sounds that bounce off the walls. Make sure you come on down and give us support.”
The arena holds about 14,600 fans. That kind of crowd, at its loudest?
“That’s what I’ve been telling ’em,” said Whalen, the former Gophers star. “And I’m waiting for those 14,000. It was good in the semifinals. People were great. It was loud. But there are a couple more levels it can get to.”
As for the Sparks, not surprisingly, the Lynx talked as if last year’s loss has little bearing on this year’s series.
“We don’t think about revenge,” Fowles said. “That was last year. I think we’re way past that. At the same time, you can’t forget about last year, either.”
Said Augustus: “We’re always glad to have another crack at the Sparks. Even if last year didn’t happen. Though the way we ended [last] season, obviously we had a bitter taste in our mouths. Now we get a chance to do something different. It’s the matchup everybody’s been waiting for. So it will be fun.”
This will be the third year in a row the two teams will face each other in the playoffs. The Lynx beat the Sparks in the best-of-three first round in 2015, but it was a tough series that went the full three games. Last year, of course, they played the full five games in the Finals with the Sparks winning.