Minneapolis, MN — Heading into the season, the defending champions of the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx, weren’t picked to repeat. Hard to believe right? Returning a majority of their players and adding players during the offseason that would add to their depth yet, they weren’t picked to repeat.
Some of that discussion was the fact that the Lynx were “old” with a roster loaded with veteran players. Last year, even though the Lynx were able to win the title, they faced injury problems, which more than likely contributed to the decision this year that they wouldn’t repeat.
However, champions never quit, and the Lynx haven’t shied away from hushing the naysayers about what their team is capable of doing.
Minnesota has now finished their regular season, and they ended it with an exclamation point – setting a franchise record with most wins in a regular season. After taking care of business against the Atlanta Dream, 95-87, the Lynx also tallied their 28th win of the season. With the win, the Lynx tied the second highest single-season total in WNBA history. (Phoenix holds the record at 29 back in 2014.)
“Absolutely thrilled for our team. I wanted this really bad for them, meaning our 28th win and, our record-setting regular season,” said Minnesota’s head coach Cheryl Reeve.
The final regular season game also happened to be Fan Appreciation Night at the Target Center. For Maya Moore, playing at home was the perfect place to get the record.
“Whenever you have the opportunity to do something great you want to do it. We want to take advantage of the opportunity of the moment and get all the rewards of what we’ve done in the season. Fortunately for us, that means winning another home game and that’s something we [love] to do something we’re very passionate about doing here at home. “
Before the game, the Lynx players knew what was on the line, but the 12 women in the gray uniforms were focused on playing hard like any other game. Or as Sylvia Fowles and Lindsey Whalen stated, playing to get better.
“Tonight was more so about us. It wasn’t [much about] the record or anything like that. It was about us going out there and playing the best way that we can, and the outcome will be the outcome,” said Fowles.
Whalen reiterated the importance of getting better on the court.
“We wanna get as many wins as we can, and we wanted to go into the playoffs on a good note, especially after the Chicago [game]. We knew we had this back to back coming; our focus was purely on what we can do to get better. Make each other better. Give it everything you got and have a good feeling going into the playoffs.”
Even though Fowles faced foul trouble during the game, she “quietly” dropped 30 points and gave the Lynx the performance they needed to make history.
The same reason there has been talk about Minnesota not repeating, is also the reason they were able to set a regular season franchise record – their veterans.
As Reeve said in her post-game conference, the Lynx are “like fine wine,” meaning they only get better with time. Like the rest of the season, Minnesota was led by their driving force of veterans. Tonight the game belonged to Fowles and her teammates took notice of her play.
“Sylvia is a monster; nobody can stop her. Today she played an amazing game, hands down I’m proud of Sylvia tonight,” shared Natasha Howard on Fowles performance. She further continued to address the importance of the experienced captains on the team.
“We have good leadership. We have good leaders on the team, good captains. Without them we wouldn’t be in the position that we’re in right now without the four captains we wouldn’t be here.”
So why others might think Minnesota is too “old,” within the team, they see that being an advantage. It means they have played in big games, they know what it takes to win, their chemistry on the court is very evident, and they know it isn’t just about the big games, but each game.
Fowles isn’t surprised by her teams’ success, yet knows in order to keep getting wins, they have to stay in the moment.
“(I) never had a doubt about what we’re going to do and how we can get it done. I think our main focus is taking it one game at a time, not getting too far ahead of ourselves and just playing the way we are capable of playing.”
With a record that speaks for itself, Minnesota knows how to win. Yes, Saturday night gave the players a reason to celebrate -- they did just set a record. However, as the Lynx get ready to rest before the playoffs start, they aren’t getting complacent with the record. They will enjoy it, but it isn’t the highlight of their season.
“It feels [real] good, but we still have [more to go]. [It’s] Playoff time now,” said Howard following the victory.
Fowles agreed with Howard, “We are going to enjoy it for these next couple of days. With that said too, I don’t think anybody is at that point where we are just satisfied with 28-6. We have so much more to prove -- and that’s starting with playoffs.”
With a “new” season of basketball ahead of Minnesota in the playoffs, you can bet the leadership of the Lynx will continue to show up. Their focus will remain in the moment, taking it one game at a time.
This team has accomplished a lot already this season, however, as the players have stated, they aren’t done yet at making great things happen for each other and the Minnesota Lynx franchise.