Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve referred to it as “stuff.”
This is an all-inclusive term, a family-friendly euphemism for all the things that got in her team’s way in August when it was 6-6.
Reeve talked about it before Friday’s 81-65 victory over Indiana at Target Center. And she used the past tense. As in, there was stuff bothering her team, but it’s getting better now. She can feel it.
“In the harder stretch,” Reeve said, “there was a lot of stuff that was keeping them from saying, ‘This is what I do great, this is what I have to focus on.’ And there was a snowball effect.”
Friday the thaw continued.
With a killer combination both inside and out, with an offense that at times clicked as well as it has all season, the Lynx won their second consecutive game in convincing fashion, even with Maya Moore missing the final 12-plus minutes after accidentally getting hit hard in the nose by teammate Sylvia Fowles’ elbow.
Fowles (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Rebekkah Brunson (14-11) dominated inside. Guards Anna Cruz (12 points, six assists, four rebounds) and Renee Montgomery (13-7-3) did it on the outside. The result was a game rarely in doubt after the opening quarter. The victory for the Lynx (21-10) shaved their magic number to one. One more victory or a loss by Phoenix will clinch the WNBA’s Western Conference title.
On defense, Brunson held Fever star Tamika Catchings to 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting. Marissa Coleman (16 points) was the only other Indiana player in double figures.
But back to that stuff.
There were injuries, yes. Seimone Augustus (mid-foot sprain) and Lindsay Whalen (bursitis and a strained Achilles) watched from the bench in street clothes Friday. And there were new faces to integrate into the lineup.
But there was more. Moore, struggling at times with her shot, Brunson with her health. The team’s four captains at times forgot how much Reeve needs them to lead.
“Teams forget the little things you did to get good,” Reeve said. “And leaders kind of forget what’s required of them.’’
But Reeve felt a corner being turned in Sunday’s victory over Phoenix — the final game of August. Following that came a good week of practice. Last month Reeve took care not to come down too hard on her team.
“They needed [the coaches] on their side,” she said. “They didn’t need us to pile on.’’
Friday it looked like the Lynx were having fun again.
“Experiencing not playing to our potential was good for us, as far as learning and remembering all those little things that make teams great no matter how talented you are,” said Moore, who had tape on her cut nose.
After the game the swelling had already started. The good news? The nose is but it’s apparently not broken. And, Moore said, she had already gone through a concussion protocol and had passed those tests.
Moore got hurt when she and Fowles chased the same rebound with 2:55 left in the third. Moore left with 11 points.
“She won,’’ Moore said of Fowles.
Actually, the whole Lynx team did Friday. Again.
“We’re buying into the things that originally got us to where we were over the championship seasons,” Moore continued. “It’s a good lesson to learn rather than at the end of the season.’’
With Moore out the Fever cut the Lynx’ 16-point lead to eight in the fourth. But Tricia Liston hit two baskets in a row, including a three-pointer to stem the tide and keep the Lynx turning that corner.
“I feel now like, whatever happens from this time on, we’re not going to have any regrets,” Moore said.