Hectic weekend to test Lynx's 'Nasty Nine'

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 23, 2014 - 6:55 AM

The defending WNBA champion Lynx play three games in four days, including two on the road.

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Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen (13) dribbles against Washington Mystics guard Ivory Latta (12) in the third quarter at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Friday, May 16, 2014. The Lynx defeated the Mystics, 89-77

Photo: Chuck Myers, MCT

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Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve came up with the nickname opening night in Washington. Her team, shorthanded because of injuries, with a rotation tighter than a Bert Blyleven curveball, found themselves trailing early in the fourth quarter before finishing strong for a victory.

Nasty Nine.

“It was just something that came out of being on the road, with just nine healthy players,” Reeve said. “I said we were the Nasty Nine. It wasn’t meant to be a hashtag or a label. This is just us, the Nasty Nine. Of course, I’d like to be able to get up to 10 or 11 and shed that nickname, as soon as I can.’’

It won’t happen right away. All-Star power forward Rebekkah Brunson likely will miss the first two months of the season following knee surgery. Monica Wright, the top reserve guard, and Devereaux Peters, the top reserve in the frontcourt, are both about two weeks away from returning following knee surgeries of their own.

And that means the Nasty Nine also figures to be a tired nine by the end of the Memorial Day weekend.

Starting with Friday’s game at Tulsa, the Lynx (2-0) will play back-to-back nights — they host New York on Saturday at Target Center — and then play a third game in four days with a 2:30 matinee in Chicago on Monday.

It is the first time since late in the 2012 season that the Lynx have had a stretch like this.

And before you start thinking this is no big deal, remember: There is no charter air travel allowed in the WNBA. The Lynx fly commercial. And that means playing in Tulsa on Friday, leaving their hotel room at 4 a.m. Saturday to make a flight that includes a connection that is scheduled to land in Minneapolis not long before the team is due at Target Center for the game against the Liberty.

“The next three or four days will be tough,” center Janel McCarville said. “Plus, two of those games are away. It’s going to be a test for us. Hopefully, we’ll get our minds right, go in each day ready for the game.”

Then there is the fact the Lynx, through two games, have basically gone with a 7½-player rotation.

That will have to change.

“We’re going to need each and every player,” Seimone Augustus said.

The good news is that backup guards Lindsey Moore and Tan White both played very well in Sunday’s overtime victory against Connecticut. Both were in the lineup — with starter Lindsay Whalen on the bench — when the team made the big run to go from 14 down late in the third quarter to up two early in the fourth.

Reeve said it might have been the best minutes Moore, in her second season, had played. For White, the veteran signed in the offseason, it was a strong response to a difficult opening night.

Reeve said she also needs to get rookie forward Asia Taylor more time, and get rookie guard Tricia Liston into her first WNBA game.

Another plus? McCarville is healthy. She played Sunday’s game with an ear infection so bad she said it affected her equilibrium. That game ended with her on the bench with a rolled ankle. But both the ankle and ear are OK.

Still, Reeve says she needs to play her reserves more.

“It depends on what happens in the game,” Reeve said, “on foul trouble, if someone rolls their ankle, all that good stuff.

‘‘If everything goes well, we have nine players we feel we can put in. I have to do a better job than I did in the first two games with three games in four days.”

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