Moments after landing in the Twin Cities on Thursday and just before heading downtown for some serious film evaluation, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve had a message for Lynx fans:
Yes, the Lynx have lost four of the past six games. Yes, the team’s defense has allowed opponents to score 50 or more first-half points in three of the past four, including twice in losses to the Phoenix Mercury. But no, she insisted, this is not a crisis.
“I don’t think so,” she said. “And, if I could get a megaphone to shout it to the Twin Cities, I would.”
That said, the Lynx are 9-4, a little more than a third through their schedule. Star guard Seimone Augustus, who has been trying to play through bursitis in her left knee, missed Wednesday’s game and is questionable for Friday.
And consider: The Lynx’s 13-point loss in Phoenix on Wednesday moved the Mercury (8-3) into first place in the WNBA’s Western Conference, percentage points ahead of the Lynx. Not counting the first few days of last season, when the Lynx had yet to play, it marks the first time since July 20, 2011 the Lynx didn’t have at least a share of the conference lead.
It’s that kind of success which, according to Reeve, has bred some crazy expectations.
“We created this monster,” Reeve said. “We can’t hide. We’ll face it head-on. We’re smart, determined. We know how hard it is to win a game in this league. We’ve made it look easy in years past. This year the gap has narrowed. Some of it is us, and some of it is really good teams in the West. … Every season is different. There is more than one way to get there. This may be the season we have to find a different way.”
The Lynx have struggled on defense, especially of late, at least partly because of forward Rebekkah Brunson, being out at least until after the All-Star break after preseason knee surgery. Being without forward Devereaux Peters and guard Monica Wright to start the season — also due to knee procedures — didn’t help.
Both Peters and Wright have returned to action, but not to 100 percent, though they continue to improve.
But while Reeve refuses to panic, she said there are a few areas the team needs to improve:
• Defense. Even Wednesday, with Maya Moore scoring 30-plus points for her second consecutive game and the Lynx shooting 47.1 percent, the Lynx couldn’t keep up as the Mercury shot 52.2 percent.
“We have not gotten to where we want to be defensively,” Reeve said. “Not consistently. There have been some good games, some good execution. … Some of the best defenders we have aren’t well right now. We might need to mix our defenses more.”
• Rebounding. The Lynx have struggled recently on the boards; Wednesday the Mercury outrebounded the Lynx 41-22.
“If you look at our losses, we’re not getting the separation we’re used to getting. We’ve asked a few players to spend more time getting that done in games, really lock into that role. That’s going to be a big indicator in our middle third of the season, how we move from averaging 31 rebounds per game to 36, 37.”
Ultimately, it will be up to the team’s leaders to get the Lynx back on track.
“I have great leaders on this team, veterans,” Reeve said. “I have players who want to do better. I know we haven’t peaked yet.”