Whalen didn’t think she was playing well, and it bothered her. In particular, an overtime loss in Chicago nine days before when, with a foul to give, Whalen failed to foul Courtney Vandersloot in the closing seconds, leading to Elena Delle Donne’s overtime-forcing three-pointer.
Reever remembers telling Whalen to let that game go, knowing she probably wouldn’t.
And then, in Atlanta, after another loss, Reeve and her three captains met. And Whalen talked. It was the most distraught Reeve had ever seen her point guard.
“She was struggling, really struggling,’’ Reeve said, “and she couldn’t let it go. She just kept spiraling downward. This was very personal for her. She opened up and said, ‘I’m sorry. I let you guys down.’ ’’
Now, Whalen wasn’t the only problem. The whole team was struggling. But Whalen is the team’s point guard. It’s her job to know what the team needs. And so what was the impact of a star and leader pointing the finger at herself?
“When you hear that, you look at yourself and wonder, ‘What didn’t I do?’ ” Augustus said. “‘How can I make things better?’ Lindsay apologized. She said, ‘From this point on I’m letting it go. And we are going to push forward.’ ”
Then the Lynx went out and won 12 of their next 13 games.
For Whalen, it was simple: She had to rid herself of some baggage before a trip to the playoffs.
“I needed to talk about the fact I didn’t think I was playing well,” she said. “It’s hard to win when your point guard isn’t playing great. Ask my parents. I’ve always taken things hard, to heart. You put so much into it, you’re on a team, everybody is trying so hard. As a point guard, as a leader, I wasn’t doing enough of my job.’’
The Lynx finished the regular season on an 8-1 run, and they have won four in a row in the playoffs, earning a rematch of the 2011 finals. “So it worked, right?’’ Brunson said.
Everything is back to normal. Which, for Whalen, means the same old familiar routines. Her plan was to eat dinner at Olive Garden on Saturday night, taking home a couple of breadsticks. For brunch Sunday she will have egg whites, turkey bacon and a warmed-up breadstick.
Before the game, a precise timeline has her leave the locker room at the same time, stretch on the same place on the court. Then she will get up, walk to center court, confer with Reeve, then warm up. Come game time she’ll be ready to do whatever it takes.
“When Whalen is on the floor,” Augustus said, “you just know things are going to be all right.’’