Kent Youngblood writes about the Minnesota Lynx.

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Dantas could miss all of upcoming conference finals

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: August 27, 2014 - 5:17 PM

It’s not Earth-shattering news due to her place as a backup on the Lynx, and the fact that she missed the first round of the playoffs. But the Lynx are looking at playing their Western Conference finals series against Phoenix without rookie forward/center Damiris Dantas.

Dantas was in Brazil tending to a family matter during the first round of the playoffs. She returned Sunday and was at Lynx practice Tuesday. But the family matter has come up again. Dantas was not at practice Wednesday. It was unclear whether she would return to Brazil. But there is a possibility she might not play in this series. 

That said, there is still a slew of All-Stars and former No. 1-overall draft picks in the two team’s starting lineups, which promises to make this a very entertaining series.

Still Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve went out of her way to encourage fans to come to Target Center for Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. game. The Lynx are doing everything they can to pump up interest in the game, which comes in the middle of Labor Day weekend with the Minnesota State Fair still going on.

“We need their help,” Reeve said of the fans. “We need them to make Target Center what it’s been all season for us, pushing the 12,000, 15,000 mark gives us a distinct advantage. So if you’re in the Twin Cities area on Sunday at 2:30, we need you at Target Center.”

A couple other nuggets from today’s workout:

--Other than Dantas, everyone else appears in good health for this series. That includes Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson, two players whose matchups in this series will be huge.

--Reeve said she and her staff learned a lot about Phoenix in the final two regular season games between the two teams. “We learned when we’re healthy we’re a better team,” she cracked.

--Seimone Augustus was asked about the incident between her and Diana Taurasi. Taurasi, frustrated, gave Augustus a shove. Augustus didn’t give any ground and the two went face-to-face for a moment before Taurasi gave Augustus a kiss. “That’s something where, if I had to take it for the team, I would,” Augustus joked. “It was either throw a punch or get a kiss.”

That’s about all for now. Have a good rest of your day. 

Reeve feels good about Lynx headed into Phoenix series

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: August 26, 2014 - 2:44 PM

After taking a couple days off, the Lynx got back to practice today. Much of the work was done in half-court sets, working on plays and on defenses. Coach Cheryl Reeve didn’t do a lot of full-court running. The Lynx will do more of that on Wednesday before cutting back a little in Thursday’s practice.

Perhaps the most interesting thing Reeve said to start a few days’ worth of speculation about the upcoming Western Conference finals against Phoenix was how good a position she felt her team was in.

“It’s a cohesive group,” she said. “I think the chemistry has really grown. Having Rebekkah [Brunson] back and Seimone [Augustus] back in the fold for the last few games. You guys all worried about the way we finished the season. But we knew we were making some progress.’’

The way they finished was losing three straight games before winning their final regular season game. And while the Lynx swept San Antonio in the first round, they had to survive a very poor first quarter in the second game to do it.

Still, Reeve feels good about this team. She reiterated her line from last week about nothing having yet been proven in the West, and how the Lynx goal of being the best in the conference was still there for the taking. “We know we have to go and take it,” she said. “Nobody will give us anything.’’

Here are some nuggets from today’s practice:

--Rookie forward/center Damiris Dantas is back with the team after missing the San Antonio series while tending to a family matter in her native Brazil. Dantas returned to the Twin Cities Sunday. She stayed well after practice today to get in some extra work.

--Today Augustus said the Phoenix-Minnesota matchup was, in her opinion, the “biggest matchup since I’ve been in the league, that people have all been expecting.’’

More and more Augustus looks to be feeling good after being hampered by knee pain for much of the season.

--Rebekkah Brunson continues to feel better and better, too. And her defense is crucial to the upcoming season.

That’s about it for now. I’ll get back to you after tomorrow’s workout. 

Yet another Maya Moore highlight reel

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: August 22, 2014 - 1:12 PM

Greetings. There wasn't any access to the Lynx today, so I don't have any new quotes for you.

That said, there is always more to be said about Maya Moore. Including the fact that, Friday, Moore was named to the WNBA's All-Defensive second team. It is the first time Moore has been named to an all-defensive team, and the fifth time for Lynx player overall. Rebekkah Brunson made it for three years starting in 2011 and Nicky Anosike was named in 2009. 

The first team consisted of Brittney Griner, Phoenix; Angel McCoughtry, Atlanta; Sancho Lyttle, Atlanta; Briann January, Indiana; and Tanisha Wright, Seattle.

Joining Moore on the second team was Alana Beard, Los Angeles; Tamika Catchings, Indiana; Sylvia Fowles, Chicago; and Danielle Robinson, San Antonio. 

OK, moving on. I thought you'd enjoy this collection of Moore's stellar plays from Thursday's victory over San Antonio at Target Center. Enjoy. 

Lynx create drama, but finish off the victory

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: August 21, 2014 - 11:39 PM

Well, that turned out to be a little tighter than it needed to be.

Who among you didn’t think that the Lynx, up 15 early in the fourth quarter, were about ready to put the foot down and blow the Stars away tonight at Target Center?

But then again, what has been easy for the Lynx this season? Given the way the Stars fought  back tonight, I’m thinking Saturday’ second game is going to be very difficult for the Lynx to win. I’m betting on a Game 3 Monday night back here.

Here are some thoughts on the game:

--What is left to say about Maya Moore? She was great tonight. She had 26 points, six rebounds, seven assists, three steals, two blocks. Vital at both ends of the floor. Here’s what Stars coach Dan Hughes said about here: “They’re a good basketball team,” he said. “But she takes ‘em to greatness.”

--Don’t forget Seimone Augustus. She has been hurting much of the year, in and out of the lineup. But tonight she hit three straight jumpers in the final 2-plus minutes to keep the Stars at bay. I think she’s feeling pretty good right now, health-wise. Indeed, maybe as good as she’s felt all year. I think she’ll be big going forward.

--Lindsay Whalen had a whale of a game two, 10 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds. Calm, calm, calm.

Only problem is, she can’t play every minute of the game. The Lynx had troubles, especially on defense, when coach Cheryl Reeve had to go to the bench. The Lynx bench got out-scored 27-17 tonight.

--It was a very efficient night for Janel McCarville, who scored 11 points with five rebounds. Ditto for Rebekkah Brunson, who is showing signs of getting her legs back. Brunson hit four of eight shots for 8 points with seven rebounds and three steals tonight. I think she’ll be even better Saturday.

That’s about all for now. Have a good weekend. 

Moore receives WNBA MVP trophy

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: August 21, 2014 - 7:14 PM

About an hour and a half before Thursday’s game tipped off, Maya Moore was officially presented with the WNBA’s MVP trophy during a press conference with league president Laurel Richie.

It was a nice, well-attended and sometimes funny presentation in which Moore, who did just about everything a player could do to get her team to the place it is, reacted with both humor and humility.

In her presentation Richie joked that, in addition to leading the league in scoring, she also probably led in black eyes. She said she felt like she knew Moore, as they both came to the league at the same time. “My sense is you came back this year on a mission,” Richie said, “to make an impact on your team.’’

Moore?

Echoing her previous comments, she talked about how strange it is to be focusing on a personal accomplishment less than two hours before the Lynx playoffs began. She thanked her team and her teammates for the environment she came into as a rookie, one that allowed her to grow as a person and a player.

She looked at her mom and asked her if she imagined this day decades ago when Moore was a little girl running around the family’s home in Missouri. “I couldn’t have dreamed it up,” Moore said.

Then she turned to the trophy to see if it was smiling. It should be, she said, because of,  ‘’how much fun it is to be on this Minnesota Lynx team,” she said. “We enjoy coming to practice, the tough times that have come our way, especially this season, and how we’ve overcome them.’’

“This award, the thing I’m probably most proud of is the consistency it represents,” Moore said. “Coming in every day and walking the walk. That’s what you want to do as a leader. You want to go out and do it. .. I felt I kept my word when I said I’m going to be there for my team when they need me. And so did the other 11 players in the locker room. To know my teammates are proud of me means more than winning the award. I care more about what they think, and what the coaching staff thinks. To know they appreciate and respect me means a lot.’’

There is more to come. There will be a pre-game ceremony on court for the fans. And then Moore can do what she’d rather do: Buckle down and worry about winning a game, a series and a championship.

As for the game? Coach Cheryl Reeve has tried hard to keep the focus on the game and not on any MVP award. Indeed, she said she hasn’t even brought up the MVP with anyone on the team other than Moore herself, and won’t mention it in her pre-game speech.

This team is ready, I believe, after four days off between games. Reeve said Lindsay Whalen was saying at shootaround this morning that it was time to play. “The mental prep for these guys is something I’m really proud of,” Reeve said. “We have great leaders who embrace what we find important as a staff.’’

A couple other things: Reeve said Seimone Augustus’ knee feels good and that Rebekkah Brunson is coming off her best week of practice so far.

Oh, and rookie Damiris Dantas, who missed the final three games of the regular season tending to a family situation in her native Brazil, will not play tonight. But Reeve said there is a chance she could play at some point in this series.

That’s about it. I’ll get back to you after the game. 

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