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Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve.

Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

Lynx left to ponder what went wrong and how to fix it

  • Article by: ROMAN AUGUSTOVIZ
  • Star Tribune
  • October 23, 2012 - 12:40 PM

INDIANAPOLIS - Wait until next season.

Coach Cheryl Reeve essentially said as much Sunday after underdog Indiana defeated the Lynx 87-78 to dethrone them as WNBA champions.

"Now that something was taken away from us and we're no longer defending champs," Reeve said, "it'll be nice to kind of start fresh and see if we can't keep this thing going."

The Lynx have had back-to-back 27-7 regular seasons -- one victory shy of the league single-season record. Last year they followed up with a dominant 7-1 run in the playoffs.

This year they struggled in the first two rounds, beating Seattle by one point in clinching Game 3 and Los Angeles by one in Game 2 of a sweep. Indiana stunned the Lynx by winning the first game of the finals at Target Center, where the Lynx were 20-1, and the Fever closed the series with two victories in Indiana.

The analysis of what went wrong for the Lynx -- and what needs to be addressed in the offseason -- began soon after the final horn.

"I've got a starting five that obviously we did a lot of great things with," Reeve said. "Every year you have changes, but there's no question that you've got Lindsay [Whalen], Seimone [Augustus] and Maya [Moore] and Rebekkah Brunson, who's in her prime. For me, everything is around them. That's how we go."

Or not.

Reeve relied on her starting five all season long; when they struggled in Game 3, the Lynx got crushed 76-59. And when only one starter, Whalen, had a good game Sunday, the league's most talented team, with three first- or second-team All-WNBA players, was no match for the Fever.

Augustus was 0-for-7 in the first quarter Sunday and, asked to carry the scoring load, couldn't. After she scored 27 points in Game 2, the Fever put Briann January on her the next two games and Augustus was held to six and eight points. Whalen dazzled in Game 4 with 22 points and eight assists. Moore and Brunson were functional but not exceptional. Nobody else stepped up.

The supporting cast could be different. Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who turned 42 Saturday and has a young daughter, probably will not return. Candice Wiggins' contract expires and she may look elsewhere; she played just two minutes in Game 4. Guard Erin Thorn and forward Amber Harris played little and could be gone, as well.

The Lynx need to find a consistent scorer off the bench and another physical front-line player to help Brunson inside next season, especially against big teams such as Seattle, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

The Storm will have 6-5 center Lauren Jackson from the start of the season; this year Jackson missed the first half training with Australia for the Olympics. Los Angeles has Candace Parker and rookie of the year Nneka Ogwumike looming in the post. Phoenix has the No. 1 pick in the draft and almost certainly will take 6-8 college phenom Brittney Griner of Baylor.

Unless they make a trade, the Lynx will draft No. 12 overall, or last in the first round. The Lynx used that same pick this year for 6-4 Damiris Dantas, who played on Brazil's Olympic team. She is an intriguing prospect but young, turning 20 next month.

Still, Brunson looked ahead to 2013 with unchecked optimism.

"We have a special group, a great team, a great bond," she said. "We're going to continue to work hard, get better and try to be back here next year."

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