One year later, the situation seems so similar, but the feelings are so different — at least for Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve.
A year ago her team was trying to defend a WNBA title. This year they’re trying to reclaim it.
Big, big difference.
When this season began, the Lynx talked about the motivation of trying to make up for last season’s loss to Indiana in the WNBA Finals.
As the season progressed, those thoughts got pushed to the background. But not long after the Lynx clinched the top playoff seed with a victory over Chicago in the regular-season finale on Saturday, all those emotions came back.
“To fall short of something we worked really hard for, to basically have a team take it from us,” Reeve said, “those feelings are kind of back. I think this is a group that will draw on those feelings. And it will be positive for us.”
The Lynx begin their quest for a second title in three seasons in the Western Conference semifinals against Seattle, a best-of-three series that starts Friday at Target Center.
Nobody is looking past Seattle. And nobody was about to start talking about the WNBA Finals. Not yet. But there is a general consensus that the team let something slip through its fingers a year ago.
“You use it as motivation, of course,” guard Lindsay Whalen said. “But I think we’ve done that all season. This team has been really focused and prepared, and the feelings from last year fed into that.”
Reeve said she’s eager to get the playoffs started, to see if the lessons from last year carried over.
“We felt in the playoffs there were things we could have done better,” she said. “Mostly in two areas. One, being more unfazed by some of the adversity you face in the games. And two, making sure that our passion is greater than our opponent’s at all times.”
The Lynx are coming off their third consecutive season with the league’s best record.
Minnesota set a franchise record for shooting percentage (47.4) while leading the league in scoring.
The team was third in scoring defense and rebounding, using both to lead the WNBA in fast-break scoring.
Now that focus needs to be carried into the postseason.
Reeve is happy with her starters but has been thinking of tweaking her rotation. Reeve said the bench could be a key in a playoff run, and is looking to put top backup Monica Wright in better position to succeed by asking her to play less at point guard.
But, overall, the main focus of preparation has been just that: focus.
“I think, for [the team], there is that feeling of being pretty hungry,” Reeve said.