Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve was with her team, on the bus to the airport, Friday morning.
Hours after Thursday's loss to the Connecticut Sun, she was still upset with the officiating of the two games in Connecticut this week. Enough that she is considering changing the way she coaches her players and the way she deals with officials.
"I am not doing a good job defending our defense nor our players who are being fouled," she said. "Our players are not doing a good job embellishing the contact they received. I've always asked our players to be tough and play through the contact. But it's hurting us.''
In two losses at Connecticut the Sun shot 41 free throws compared to 17 for the Lynx. On Tuesday, Kayla McBride was the only Lynx player to shoot a free throw, getting seven. On Thursday, the Sun shot 25 free throws to the Lynx's 10; Sun star DeWanna Bonner alone had more free throw attempts (11) than the entire Lynx team.
Coaching a team that is determined to score in the paint – Minnesota is the WNBA's second-best at doing so – Reeve feels this is an inexcusable discrepancy. Watching film of Thursday's game she saw the Lynx getting called for hand-checking while the Sun's Jasmine Thomas was allowed to hand-check Lynx guard Layshia Clarendon nearly from start to finish.
Earlier this season the Lynx became just the second team in WNBA history to not shoot a free throw in a game. Despite this the Lynx were able to win that game in Las Vegas. But to Reeve, she looks at a game like that, between the two best inside teams in the league, sees the 19-0 difference in free throws attempted and sees red.
Thursday? "We shot 40 shots from 1 to 10 feet [away from the basket],'' she said. "Of those, 29 were from 1 to 5 feet. We play through the paint, [scoring] darn near 40 a game. We had 36 there last night. Our approach wasn't wrong, in terms of what players were trying to get done.
"Was there that big a discrepancy in the way we played and the way they played? No.''
Reeve believes she has to change the way she coaches her players and deals with officials in-game. Having traditionally coached her team to play through contact, now she is starting to see the benefit of selling that contact to the officials.
"We have to learn from the crafty players in our league,'' Reeve said. "I hate to teach those things. But you have too many games that are historical outliers. What do you do? What are we not doing?''
Reeve pointed to two foul calls Bonner got. The first came on the Sun's first basket, when Reeve felt Bonner sold contact that didn't occur, resulting in a foul on Collier and a three-point play. In the final minute of the game, after the Lynx had pulled within five, Bonner got a foul call after falling to the floor.
"It's not a foul,'' Reeve said. "But those things matter. We're just not as good at it.''
To Reeve, an imbalance in free throw attempts puts pressure on the team to be nearly perfect in other areas.
“I am not doing a good job defending our defense nor our players who are being fouled. Our players are not doing a good job embellishing the contact they received. I've always asked our players to be tough and play through the contact. But it's hurting us.”
Reeve pledged to be more vocal with officials during games. Perhaps it's time, she said, to let her players sell calls, too.
"We are going to be vocal,'' Reeve said. "I have to be considerably better and more focused on what is legal and what is not legal, and ride 'em.''