Lynx: Consistency is 'Ohlde' hat

Nicole Ohlde, who has started a franchise-record 158 games, is playing fewer minutes but is enjoying the playoff race.

The individual statistics for the Lynx's Nicole Ohlde (3) are down, but she's enjoying being a part of a more competitive team than in past seasons.

Photo: Kyndell Harkness , Star Tribune file

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Nicole Ohlde will start her 159th consecutive game today when the Lynx play Seattle at Target Center. Ever since Minnesota took the 6-5 forward with the sixth pick in the 2004 WNBA draft, Ohlde has not missed a game in four-plus seasons.

The one-time All-America at Kansas State also has been remarkably consistent from year to year, averaging 11.7 points, 11.2, 9.6 and 11.5 -- until this year. Statistically Ohlde, who has played longer for the Lynx than any of her teammates, is in the midst of her worst season by far. She is averaging six points, 3.7 rebounds and 17.6 minutes, all career lows.

But instead of sulking or demanding a trade, Ohlde is enjoying herself, savoring the victories.

The Lynx (11-11) are in the thick of playoff chase in the Western Conference -- they are one-half game out of fourth place, the last playoff spot -- and have beaten such elite teams as Detroit, Los Angeles and most recently San Antonio 87-74 on Saturday.

"The only time I made the playoffs was my rookie year," Ohlde said. "Last year we were out of the playoffs at this point. ... We had won like six games by now.

"Now we are winning, and I'm having a very fun time doing it. I don't think anybody is really checking out their numbers at this point."

Ohlde's statistics have been typically modest. She has scored in double figures twice: 10 points against Connecticut on June 10, and 14 against New York on June 24, when she made seven of eight shots from the field.

Twice Ohlde has had five assists. Her high for rebounds is 10, once.

"There is no doubt that when 'O' finishes and has a good game on offense, we are a better team," Lynx coach Don Zierden said. "But she has done a nice job of not forcing anything. She is shooting at a higher percentage than she did last year."

That's true. Ohlde is making 43.9 percent of her shots from the floor, up from 37.4. She never attempts three-pointers.

Ohlde's minutes are down, Zierden said, because nine players are averaging more than 10 minutes per game.

"One of our strengths, we decided as a coaching staff, is our bench," Zierden said.

Against San Antonio, for instance, six Lynx bench players outscored the Silver Stars' reserves 41-8, and the substitutes played almost as many minutes as the starters (96 to 104).

"Any player wants to be on the court the whole game," Ohlde said, "but what makes us special and, what everybody knows makes us win games, is our depth. And it is what will allow us to get into the playoffs. Anybody, including myself, would give up a few minutes to get there."

Ohlde starts alongside 6-2 rookie Nicky Anosike at center. Anosike also has started every game this season. Three other players rotate into those two post spots.

"We have a nice little rotation," Ohlde said. "We have big Vanessa [Hayden-Johnson], who is a power player. We have Charde [Houston], who is really quick and athletic. And Raz [Kristen Rasmussen], who can hit the three. Our post rotation is working well."

Ohlde said she tries to be adaptable.

"Some games we really want to pound it into the post and I have the ability to score in the post," Ohlde said. "If we want to run a lot of pick and rolls, I have the ability to do that. And if we need somebody to rebound the ball, that game I will focus on rebounding."

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