Just over two weeks ago the Lynx came home from Connecticut, where they’d been blown out by the Sun. The defending WNBA champions had lost five of six games. Coach Cheryl Reeve was fiddling with her rotations, trying to find the right mix amid talk that a once-proud team had suddenly grown old.
With a week between games, Reeve went back to basics — in a number of different ways. During a three-day “mini-training camp,” she worked the team on everything from setting a screen to taking the right angle needed to use that screen best.
“It was little things that it takes to win a possession,” Reeve said Monday, on her way back to the Twin Cities from Las Vegas, where the Lynx beat the Aces on Sunday. “How hard you have to play, or how smart. Whatever it is. There were things this team knows how to do, but things they weren’t doing in the first nine games. It’s not new, and it’s always hard. But when you don’t take care of little things, you don’t win.”
Since then? The Lynx are 4-0, a stretch in which they have led for all but a 16-second stretch in the first quarter against New York, when the Liberty held a brief, one-point lead. Reeve is not yet satisfied. There are still too many empty possessions, especially late in games, stretches that will hurt the team against quality competition such as Seattle. Reeve still is looking to develop — or find — quality backup for center Sylvia Fowles.
But the Lynx are playing better. Asked why, Reeve offered these items:
MVP = MVP
Reeve has said from the start that her two Most Vital Players, forward Maya Moore and Fowles, had to play like Most Valuable Player candidates for the team to win.
Moore has averaged 21.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in the team’s four-game winning streak and was named Monday the league’s Western Conference player of the week. It’s her 18th such award.
Reeve said Moore has been more aggressive, more engaged, more willing to take her shot.
“She’s been far more assertive, and she’s moving great without the ball,” Reeve said. “She had a great cut against Phoenix late to silence things for the last time.”
Fowles? Her numbers have been great start to finish. But Reeve says her center has stepped things up, especially on help defense in the post.
Reeve will admit that her determination to watch the minutes her veterans were playing got things all out of whack. In discussions with Lindsay Whalen, Reeve rededicated herself to playing Whalen more.
“We had to get back to our identity and rotation,” Reeve said. “Lindsay on the floor is important to us. We weren’t going to be able to get back on track without Lindsay being a part of it.”
Whalen averaged 25 minutes in the past two games, scoring a season-high 15 in a win at Phoenix and dishing a season-high nine assists Sunday.
Always a cog, veteran forward Rebekkah Brunson has been at her defensive best of late. The most recent example: Sunday, when she held likely rookie of the year A’ja Wilson to a season-low 10 points and nine shots. Reeve still has to stick with a minutes plan to protect Brunson’s knees, a job made difficult when Fowles gets into foul trouble. But Brunson’s defense and rebounding have been key.