Minnesota Lynx Kick Off 2014 Playoffs Seeking to Defend Their Title

MN lynx - 2013 wnba champions

The Minnesota Lynx kick off the 2014 WNBA Playoffs with a best-of-three first-round matchup against the San Antonio Stars tonight, but if you’re like me, you didn’t catch much of their regular season. Wouldn’t it be nice to at least be able to speak intelligently about the team? I thought so, so I whipped up a little primer for the postseason because the Lynx are a truly great team and you ought to know about the terrific basketball they’ve been playing. The Cheryl Reeve-coached Lynx have easily been the state’s most successful sports team in recent history. Especially considering they have as many championships (2) as the big four of Minnesota miserable sports teams (Wolves [0], Vikings [0], Twins [2] yay!, Wild [0]). Last season, the Lynx swept through the playoffs on their way to their second championship and third WNBA Finals appearance in as many years, but this year might be a bit harder because they will likely play the Phoenix Mercury if they make it past the Stars (which they should).

wnba - MN lynx

Why should they? In the regular season, the 25-9 Lynx were second in the league in points per game (81.6) and first in assists (20.3). Their rebounding (35.2) and defense (77.2 points allowed) weren’t bad either, as they were ranked third and sixth, respectively, even though multiple players missed time due to injury. The Stars were first in three-pointers (35.9 percent) and bench scoring (29.4), fifth in both points (77.8) and assists (18.3) per game, while they were ranked second to last in rebounding (31.7) and defense (79.6 points allowed). The Stars snuck into the playoffs with a 16-18 record by beating the Lynx last Friday. The Lynx head to the postseason losing three of their last four outings, while the Stars come in with three consecutive wins, tied for their longest win streak of the season. Since there are only 12 WNBA teams and eight make the playoffs, teams with losing records reaching the playoffs are much more likely to happen. This season was entirely the year of Maya Moore. Named the league’s MVP this morning, she ended up scoring the third most points in a season in WNBA history with 812, next only to fellow University of Connecticut grad Diana Taurasi’s 820 points in 2008 and 860 points in 2006.

maya moore - lynx - WNBA MVP

Besides being the leading scorer in the league, Moore ranked first in total efficiency. She was also third overall in steals and eighth overall in rebounds. Moore opened the season for the Lynx by leading the team to seven consecutive wins, two coming against San Antonio. In the first four games, she scored 135 total points, the most in any four consecutive games in WNBA history. It was also the first time a player had posted four straight 30 point outings while she added eight more throughout the season for another WNBA record. Directly following their tremendous winning streak, they went 6-6, which was followed by an 11-game win streak which gave them a shot at winning the Western Conference. The winning streak included a thrilling double overtime game against the Atlanta Dream (the team the Lynx have beaten in their two WNBA Finals victories) on July 22, in which Moore scored 48 points, three points short of the highest total in WNBA history. In the end though, the Phoenix Mercury (led by Brittney Griner and Taurasi) were too strong and pulled away with the top spot in the conference (and league), finishing 29-5 and earning the right to play Los Angeles in the first round. Of course, with the Lynx being so good, they have more weapons than just Moore. Former Gopher greats Lindsay Whalen and Janel McCarville are two such players. Whalen’s play at the point guard position, her handles, her slashing ability, her spot-up shooting, are all extremely valuable. McCarville’s size and passing out of the post also make her an asset. lynx augustus Forward Rebekkah Brunson and guard Seimone Augustus both missed extended time due to knee injuries during the tough stretch of the season. Brunson is seventh on the WNBA all-time rebounding list and has a Lynx record 43 double-doubles in her career with the team. The 32-year-old recently signed a multi-year extension with the team, although terms were not disclosed. Augustus was the face of the franchise before Maya Moore came to town as the first-overall pick in 2011. A first-overall draft pick herself, Augustus has five all-star appearances and a scoring title as well. Fortunately, all of the key players are healthy heading to the playoffs where this veteran team is already battle-tested. That means a promising postseason and potentially a third championship ring in four years (dynasty!). So head out and root for the Lynx now that you ought to know enough to get by! (We’re even trying to end a player’s career.) Game one is Thursday night at Target Center at 8 p.m. on ESPN2 while game two is Saturday at 6 p.m. in San Antonio with the possible tie-breaker back in Minny on Monday.   Photos by: Erica M -- Joe Bielawa  

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