Kent Youngblood writes about the Minnesota Lynx.

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Lynx head into the playoffs with some momentum

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: August 16, 2014 - 10:22 PM

It was as if the way the Lynx played in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s victory over Tulsa had wiped away a weeks’ worth of losses and frustration. The Lynx enter the playoffs Thursday with a little bit of swagger restored to their collective step. Here are some observations from tonight’s 80-63 victory at Target Center, which made the Lynx (25-9) the first WNBA team in history to have four straight seasons with 25 or more victories:

--I think Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen needs the two days of rest the Lynx are getting before getting back to practice Tuesday. Whalen played hard and was a key part of the fourth-quarter surge tonight. She finished with six points and nine assists. But she looked a bit tired while shooting 2-for-14.

--Seimone Augustus showed no signs her knee was hurting while scoring 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting. Afterward she said she was surprised her left knee hurt so little. The Lynx need her in the playoffs.

--Maya Moore became the only player in the league to score in double figures in every game this season with her 19-point, 12-rebound performance.

--It as a nice game for the Lynx bench tonight. Tan White scored eight with five assists. Monica Wright scored seven and Devereaux Peters had six points and six rebounds. The Lynx bench scored a total of 25 points.

--The Lynx had 24 assists on 30 field goals made.

--For the Lynx to vie for another title, I think Rebekkah Brunson will have to take it to another level. Before the game coach Cheryl Reeve said Brunson – who only played in the final 11 regular season games after pre-season knee surgery – was going through a stretch of tired legs players often get in training camp. I believe she’ll get closer to her regular form by Thursday.

That’s about it for now. Have a great rest of your weekend.

Augustus expected to play tonight

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: August 16, 2014 - 7:05 PM

Seimone Augustus warmed up and will attempt to play tonight, one night after missing a game with swelling in her left knee.

It is something Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said Augustus very much wanted to do. The plan was to let Augustus stay home and let the knee rest while the Lynx played in San Antonio Friday night. And then for Augustus and the trainers to decide whether she could go tonight after warming up.

So she will play. But don’t expect to see her out there for, say, 30 minutes. Reeve is more concerned about the playoffs than this particular game, even though it is fan appreciation night. “We’ll see how it goes,” Reeve said.

That said, there is some significance to this game, even though it won’t affect the Western Conference playoff seeding. A win would give the Lynx 25 victories this season for the fourth straight season, something no other WNBA team has ever done.

“It would be nice to have,” Reeve said. “As I told our players, I want them to take their place in history, because I think they’ve been that good over a period of time. It just would reflect how amazing they’ve been. At the same time, winning in the playoffs is of paramount importance.”

Meanwhile:

Just before Saturday’s game tipped off, the Lynx announced that forward Rebekkah Brunson had agreed to a multi-year contract extension with the team.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“She is one of the cornerstones of our team and we’re thrilled that she’s decided to continue her career in Minnesota,” Lynx executive vice president Roger Griffith said. “We look forward to having her in a Lynx uniform for many years to come.’’

Brunson is in her 11th WNBA season, her fifth with the Lynx. She missed much of the season after having knee surgery as training camp began. She returned after the All Star break and has averaged 7.2 points and 8.1 rebounds in 10 games .

That’s about all for now. I’ll get back to you after the game. 

Lynx's Seimone Augustus will miss tonight's game

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: August 15, 2014 - 3:39 PM

The Lynx canceled media availability after Thursday’s practice, so the news that guard Seimone Augustus was not on the trip for tonight’s game at San Antonio didn’t come out until this afternoon.

Augustus missed the trip due to left knee swelling, and is unlikely to play in Saturday's regular season finale. 

This is not the same knee issue that kept Augustus out for eight games in a row in July. Augustus was battling left knee bursitis then, a condition that forced her to rest the knee through an eight-game stretch that included All Star weekend before returning to action July 25. She scored 17 points in her first game back. Two games later she had a run in which she averaged 19.7 points over three games, all victories, including scoring 19 in a victory over Phoenix.

But, in her last three games, her production has been up and down. She scored nine points in a victory over Chicago Aug. 7, then had 18 in a last-second loss at Phoenix two days later. Augustus was given a day off of practice prior to Minnesota’s game with Los Angeles Tuesday. In the Lynx’s loss to the Sparks Augustus struggle, making just three of 10 attempts en route to a season-low eight points.

More should be known about Augustus’ condition Saturday; she will be a game-time decision. 

Lynx post-game: Let the worrying begin

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: August 12, 2014 - 10:15 PM

Well, Lynx fans, you have reason to be concerned as the end of the regular season approaches.

The Lynx had their 11-game home winning streak ended by the Sparks Tuesday. With the victory – L.A.’s first at Target Center in exactly four years – the Sparks clinched a playoff berth and served notice that they won’t be a pushover should they meet the Lynx in the first round of the playoffs next week.

Here are some thoughts on the game:

--Even with all their starters available, the Lynx are still hitting too many stretches when the offense goes south. It happened for sure in the fourth quarter, when the Lynx shot 37.5 percent, turned the ball over twice and were out-scored 22-12; L.A. scored the final nine points of the game. I can’t remember the last time the Lynx had only one player score in double figures in a game.

--Maya Moore became the all-time franchise single-season scoring leader – and No. 3 in the WNBA all-time tonight. But she, along with her teammates, were nothing but somber after the game ended.

--The Lynx say she’s fine, but Seimone Augustus just doesn’t look 100 percent out there. She was 3-for-10 tonight, including a fourth-quarter airball from the corner after Kristi Toliver’s fifth three-pointer of the night had given the Sparks a 4-point lead with less than a minute left.

--The Lynx have to figure out a way to play better defense. The Sparks shot 50 percent after the first quarter, and Toliver was unstoppable no matter who guarded her tonight.

--It’s not too often the Lynx get out-shot and out-rebounded at home.

That’s about all for now. The Lynx will not practice Wednesday. After practice Thursday the team will head to San Antonio for the first of back-to-back games to end the season. Minnesota hosts Tulsa Saturday.

Reeve makes case for Moore winning MVP

Posted by: Kent Youngblood Updated: August 12, 2014 - 6:27 PM

To the surprise of nobody Lynx coach  Cheryl Reeve was emphatic when asked tonight, before her Lynx played Los Angeles at Target Center, that Maya Moore should be the WNBA MVP. If you’ll recall, Moore finished runner up in the voting last year to Sparks star Candace Parker.

This year, it will be a huge upset if Moore doesn’t win. She leads the league in scoring, has 12 games of 30 points or more, and needs just 17 points tonight to surpass Seimone Augustus for the highest-scoring single season in franchise history (third-most in league history).

Here are some of the things she had to say about Moore:

--“I don’t really think it's hard to see that Maya has been head-and-shoulders above every player in the league,” Reeve said. “Not just in offense and scoring, though she’s been very prolific in that area. Rebounds. We chart deflections, and Maya’s my highest deflection player. Playmaker, assists. She along with Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville are the biggest reasons why we were able to weather the storm of having really good players out.’’

For the record, Moore entered the game with 157 deflections. The next closest Lynx player has 83.

--Reeve said the amazing thing is that Moore has done this without really trying to force the scoring. “This is not a player who ran around trying to get 30 points or trying to be the MVP,” Reeve said. “She’s done it in the framework of what we do.’’

One final Reeve quote on Moore: “I think one of the biggest gaffes, if you will, from a voting standpoint (would be) if Maya Moore is not the MVP of the 2014 season.”

I don’t think she has to worry about it.

Here are some other items to consider pre-game:

--Rookie center/forward Damiris Dantas flew back to Brazil today to deal with a family issue. She will miss the final three games of the regular season, but return for the playoffs. Reeve said she had hoped to give Damiris a good bit of playing time down the stretch to get her rhythm and confidence back. Looks like that will have to happen in the practices leading up to the first round of the playoffs.

--Reeve said there have been some changes in the Sparks approach to games since Penny Toler took over as coach with 12 games to play in the season. Among them?

They team is featuring forward Nneka Ogwumike much more. She used to get much of her scoring off rebounds and hustle plays. Now plays are being called for her.

The Sparks, defensively, will mix in a little zone, something they didn’t do in the past.

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