Seasons like the Minnesota Lynx are having are not associated with Rebekkah Brunson’s playing time with the franchise (from 2010 to 2018). During that span, the Lynx only had a losing season in 2010. That’s actually the last time Minnesota missed the playoffs, as they have continued to make it every year since 2018.
As head coach Cheryl Reeve acknowledged Sunday night, her 2022 Lynx have “a lot more work to do to” to keep their 11-year playoff streak going. But she said that in response to a question about whether teams around the WNBA should be scared of the Lynx moving forward because her team had just knocked the Las Vegas Aces out of first place with a dominating 102-71 showing that featured 15 offensive rebounds and 53 total rebounds on the same night that the team retired the jersey of Brunson, the WNBA’s all-time leader in offensive boards.
The shocking blowout was huge for a team that has had terrible luck in close games this year, including three against the Aces. And with a four-time champion in Reeve at the helm, you never know what the Lynx (7-15, 2.5 games out of the playoff picture) could cook up over their final 14 games.
“It was fun to watch, that’s for sure,” said Brunson, who is now an assistant coach for the Lynx and saw her No. 32 revealed in the rafters after the win. “Having them go out there and compete that way. So tonight is fun, but, you know, I would like for them to go ahead and keep that energy and keep that mojo and move on through the season.
“But you think about that when you try to plan things like this, like, ‘Well what if the game doesn’t go well? How you gon’ feel afterwards?’ It was no question about how we all were feeling, how the rest of the night is gonna go, because they went out there and they left everything they had on the floor, they played amazingly, I’m so proud of them.”
In addition to the Lynx honoring Brunson with their effort on the glass, their leading scorer in the contest, Aerial Powers, had exactly 32 points.
Powers declined to say whether or not she promised Brunson 32 points before the game, saying “maybe I did, maybe I didn’t.
“But I did tell her towards the end of the game, ‘Man, I’m so happy we got this win for you on your night.’”
“I think a lot of these players don’t really understand Rebekkah and her relentlessness and determination and really what it took to be so exceptional,” Reeve said. “I don’t know it they (rebounded) for her or not. I mean if they did, that’s really cool. But the really eerie one is Powers getting 32. You know, that’s really eerie. I don’t know if you saw the July 3rd stat. July 3rd in 2021, we beat Phoenix by 31. July 3rd, 2022, we beat the Aces by 31. Players determined that the common number was three and they were gonna be playing, I don’t know, whatever you do to go play three and gamble and try to win some money.”
At the postgame press conference, Powers, a WNBA champion like Brunson, talked about Brunson’s consistency and how that’s something she is striving for. Her first year in Minnesota was impacted by injuries, but she did her best to send the Lynx to the semifinals with 24 points in their second-round upset loss to the eventual champion Chicago Sky. Her 32 points on Sunday marked a career high.
“AP has been trending in this direction,” Reeve said. “I think that she’s been making better decisions. Not getting jammed up, (not) getting into the low-percentage area, (not) taking hard shots about six or seven feet from the basket. I think she’s been really mindful, has been very coachable. Her aggression led to great things. She wasn’t thinking, I think she’ll tell you that. Most players like that, when they don’t think, they’re really good, and I think AP was in that place.”
Minnesota lost to Vegas by six on Friday, but made the proper adjustments to avoid being swept by the Aces for the season.
“Super proud of the team,” Reeve said. “I think we all thought this was possible today and maybe not to the extent that it happened, but we thought we could beat the Aces.
“I thought we were difficult to play against. I thought that getting into the paint wasn’t easy for them. We talked about the Aces, that there’s three ways that they score — you’re not gonna stop all three. They did take 37 threes. But our team trusted that if we continue to focus on our identity, which is make it difficult to be in the paint, that things could work out for us. It was a big number for them to see, that even though we gave up 12 made threes, they shot under 37 percent, only scored 71 points. I think that was a real eye-opener for our team.”
Having knocked the Aces (15-6) out of first place, the Lynx will now take on the first-place Sky (15-5) on Wednesday in what is the fourth of six-straight home games. Minnesota is 0-2 this season against Chicago, with an 82-78 loss coming on May 14 and an 88-85 loss coming on June 26.
“I don’t know what other teams think of us,” Reeve said. “What I do know is that we’re looking up. ... We’re trending in the right direction. But winning games in this league is hard. ... We’ve got a Chicago team coming in here ... we’re trying to get over the hump with them too.”