If there is a silver lining to be found in the injury troubles that plagued Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen at the end of the regular season it is the confidence and comfort the Lynx players – and the coaches – gained with Anna Cruz and Renee Montgomery.
Cruz, acquired in a draft day trade with New York, joined the team late, after she finished playing for Spain in international competition. Montgomery was acquired in a trade that sent Monica Wright to Seattle.
Cruz, in particular, played a good bit upon her arrival. But it wasn’t until Whalen sat out the last few games with ankle and Achilles problems that the coaches really got to see Cruz and Montgomery play together.
“When we got to be really in the trenches with both Anna and Renee we learned so much,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It allowed us to have the confidence in this series.’’
Of course, the small lineup of Cruz and Montgomery at guard, Augustus at the small forward, Maya Moore at the four and center Sylvia Fowles has been very good in the second half of the last two games of these WNBA finals, turning the tide in both games. Cruz and Montgomery have been able to stymie the Indiana backcourt at times, especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
That said, Reeve isn’t about to change her lineup. As always, Whalen and Augustus will start along with Rebekkah Brunson, Sylvia Fowles and Moore. But Reeve has absolutely no qualms about using her top guards off the bench should the situation arise. And really, it has given Reeve the depth to respond to whatever situation presents itself.
--At shootaround today, Reeve said she didn’t need to tell her team anything about the game’s importance, how prepared Indiana – which has survived four elimination games in the 2015 playoffs – will be. She did, however, remind Moore to stay out of foul trouble.
--Meanwhile, as expected, the Fever, comfortable this season with their backs against wall, are embracing yet another opportunity. The Twitter-inspired motto for the game, as told by Tamika Catchings? #onenighttolive.
“We know what we have to do as a team,” Catchings said. “Look at every game. It’s gone down to the last two or three minutes. We have to do one or two things better. Fewer turnovers down the stretch. Hitting shots. A couple defensive rotations here and there. We’re right there.’’