Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was immersed in film Friday. It was the day after the Lynx edged past Phoenix in the second-round of the playoffs, two days before their best-of-five league semifinal series begins with Seattle on Sunday.
A lot of the film wasn’t easy to watch.
Take the Lynx’s two games with the Storm this season: a 24-point loss in the second game of the season and a 15-point loss on Sept. 6. Despite what the one-sided scores indicate, in both of those games the Lynx played stretches of good basketball only to have the Storm use a run to break the game open.
In the first game, the Lynx were down just three points four minutes into the third quarter — only to have the Storm go on a 21-7 run. In the second game, the Lynx were within four points in the first minute of the third quarter, but 10 minutes later they trailed by 21.
It was tough to watch, but it looked familiar.
“Did you watch us in the Lindsay Whalen era?” Reeve said. “Well, we’re on the other side of that now. They’re that great team. When you’re talented and you have the best combination of offense and defense, you wait for that moment to get separation, then you win the game. We used to do that all the time. They always keep playing, knowing at some point that they will allow them to take over.”
This is a daunting task.
The Storm finished 18-4, tied for the best record in the WNBA, thanks to the most efficient offense and the toughest defense in the league.
Most teams have to make a decision where to make their defensive stand, but the athletic Storm is first in the league in three-point defense and in the top four at defending the paint.
To Reeve, there is no better team at taking away what you do best, whatever that may be. The way the Storm defends the pick-and-roll, particularly on the sides, makes it difficult to reverse the ball.
“They apply pressure on reverse pick-and-rolls like nobody else,” Reeve said.
So, what do the Lynx have to do to stay with Seattle?
Start with limiting turnovers. The Lynx, in moments, have shown they can score against Seattle, but turnovers have hurt them. Seattle scored 56 points off 48 Lynx turnovers in the two games this season.
For all of its firepower, from MVP candidate Breanna Stewart to veteran guard Sue Bird, the Storm uses its defense to create offense.
Getting so many stops prevents opponents from setting up, allowing the Seattle offense to keep them on their heels.
“We weren’t really playing our offense,” Lynx forward Napheesa Collier said, referring mainly to the Sept. 6 game. “We let them dictate to us with their defense, and that translated to their offense.”
And the Lynx have to be better on defense. The Storm’s ball movement — and multiple scoring threats — makes this a tough challenge. But the Storm got far too many open looks on the perimeter in two games with the Lynx (the Storm shot 43.1% from behind the arc) while also scoring 75 points in the paint.
Bottom line? “Our offense has got to be able to put pressure on their defense,” Reeve said. “It won’t be easy. That’s why they’re one of the top two teams in the league.”
And Reeve knows what that’s like.