LOS ANGELES – The Lynx didn’t practice Saturday. They put up some shots at USC’s Galen Center, then watched film. At this point in the WNBA Finals, with their backs against the wall, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said the team already knows the X’s and O’s. At this point it’s more about minding their P’s and Q’s.
It’s all about the details. Either that or let the season end.
“At this point it’s about a player wanting to do a little extra, do some dirty work, whatever it is,” Reeve said. “Will they? That’s what we’ll find out tomorrow.”
Down 2-1 in the best-of-five series after Friday’s offensively stunted 75-64 loss, the Lynx have to figure out a way to get their offense going or they’ll be sent packing.
In the first three games of this series the Lynx have turned in two of their lowest point totals in team Finals history. And this is a team playing in its sixth Finals in seven seasons. They have also turned in their two lowest-scoring quarters in team playoff history — the 10 they scored in the first quarter of Game 1 and the eight they had in the first quarter Friday.
The numbers are startling. Friday the Lynx starters were outscored 64-37 by Sparks starters. At the critical guard position, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen of the Lynx were outscored by Odyssey Sims and Chelsea Gray 30-0.
It was the first time in Augustus’ history she did not score in a playoff game. Immediately after the game Reeve noted aloud how hard it is to win in the Finals without star players playing well.
Saturday, while she wasn’t as critical of her team as she was following a Game 1 loss, she did question her team’s execution at the start of Friday’s game. “Too many times, early in the game, we didn’t respond well,” Reeve said. “The game got hard. And when it gets hard, you have to do more. You can’t take shortcuts. There was a little of that going on.”
With a defense that is playing well enough to win, Reeve is concentrating on the offense. After putting up shots, the Lynx watched tape of the 27 pass deflections the Sparks got Friday. When it comes to getting the offense going, it goes farther than just getting better guard play. For the offense to function the guards have to free themselves from the Sparks perimeter pressure to get passes off. And the rest of the team has to set better picks and move with more precision without the ball to get open for those passes.
That didn’t happen Friday, when Maya Moore had a scoreless first half and Augustus got off only four shots.
“I have to be more aggressive,” said Augustus, who also noted that she needs to get the ball. “I can’t shoot air,” she noted. “We just didn’t execute the way we wanted to. That created a lot of one-on-one situations. When we’re efficient, then I feel no team can guard us.’’
But the Lynx were certainly guardable Friday. Reeve noted that the team worked hard over the final weeks of the regular season to play a team like the Sparks, who pressure the ball so well. Much of that went out the window in Game 3.
“How can you run the offense if you can’t pass to anyone?” Reeve said.
As Reeve said, Lynx fans will find out in Game 4 Sunday whether the message sunk in. Last year the Lynx responded from a one-sided loss in Game 3 with a strong Game 4 performance that sent the series back to Minnesota.
“It’s all about heart,’’ center Sylvia Fowles said. “It’s about grit. If you’re not motivated and ready to go out and bust your butt, then you have a problem.”