Their WNBA season is not even at the quarter pole yet, and yet Friday’s game against the L.A. Sparks is important for the Lynx.
“We want to make a statement,” Maya Moore said. “Continue to show who we are.”
Last Friday the Lynx went to Los Angeles’ Staples Center — a place where the team often struggles — and got blown out 87-59 in a game so one-sided coach Cheryl Reeve benched her starters in the second half.
And it feels as if that game has lingered, even after the Lynx bounced back with a victory over Tulsa on Sunday. After two days off the team returned to practice Wednesday, but a lackluster effort had Reeve fuming. Predictably, the Lynx responded with a better practice Thursday. And while Reeve may have simply been trying to push the necessary buttons to motivate her team, the reason is simple. The game matters. A lot.
Minnesota (6-2) is a half-game ahead of the Sparks (5-2) in the Western Conference standings. Friday’s game is the second of three versus Los Angeles that will be played in less than two weeks. They also meet in L.A. on Tuesday. Reeve already is thinking about potential tiebreakers for postseason seeding, but the one-sided loss Friday likely will be all the motivation the Lynx need.
“I want ’em to be really disappointed and find our output in L.A. unacceptable, on every level,” Reeve said. “And to never repeat that. If that’s drawing motivation [from the loss], then I guess that’s what we’ll call it.”
The Lynx started this season a week later than most other teams in the league. But, not counting that, Minnesota has held at least a share of the conference lead since July 20, 2011, when the Lynx went to Phoenix a half-game behind the Mercury but won 106-98. Minnesota has been looking down at the rest of the West ever since. It’s just further motivation for the Lynx.
“We’re looking at this game as a situation to bounce back,” Lynx guard Seimone Augustus said, “and prove we can compete with Los Angeles.”