Let us be honest for a second – the 2018 sports fan can sometimes be somewhat over-reactionary.
All one has to do is cross the basketball rivers from the WNBA to the NBA for a second and peer at the two teams currently playing in the Finals – the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Golden State had a stretch earlier in the season where they did not look like the same Warriors team that has played in three consecutive Finals and they are back in the Finals again (albeit said, playing a Rockets team that was without one of their best players for Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Finals helps plenty).
The Cavs were really scuffling earlier in the season to the point where they practically traded away their entire team simply to regroup and have a chance at the Finals. When all was said and done, Cleveland still knew that they had LeBron James and as long as they had him, the path to the NBA Finals still went through The Land despite them entering the playoffs as the fourth seed in the East.
Those same struggles appear to have been seen on another franchise that has become very adept at hoisting trophies and participating in championship parades – the Minnesota Lynx.
As of this writing, the Lynx sit at 2-5 and would be on the outside looking in if the postseason began today.
Minnesota is closer to the lottery than the post season.
— Mel Greenberg (@womhoopsguru) June 3, 2018
One can say that if it was not for that clutch three-pointer Maya Moore sinked on the road at the New York Liberty that the Lynx may be 1-6. One can also say that if it were not for Chelsea Gray’s buzzer-beating layup in Minnesota’s #WNBAAllDay season opener at home, which lifted Gray’s Sparks to a 77-76 win, the Lynx would be 3-4.
So a 2-5 mark seems just about right given what has transpired with the Lynx this season.
Coming into 2018, there were concerns about if the Lynx had enough to win back-to-back championships. Jia Perkins and Plenette Pierson were retiring. Renee Montgomery is now with the Atlanta Dream. Lindsay Whalen assumed the head coaching role at her alma mater Minnesota Golden Gophers in addition to her Lynx duties. And everyone on head coach Cheryl Reeve’s team, one of the more veteran-laden squads in the W is a year older.
And, of course, that whole thing about Minnesota hoisting championships in odd numbered years – just as the MLB’s San Francisco Giants used to win titles only in even-numbered seasons earlier this decade.
If the Lynx still look like they are in danger of missing the postseason around the time of the All-Star Game which, ironically, will be in Minnesota next month, then perhaps tap on that panic button a little bit in the land of 10,000 Lakes.
Until then, R-E-L-A-X.
Seven games does not a season make. Let us also remember that in addition to close finishes at the Liberty and vs. the Sparks, Minnesota came very close to gaining a win on the road in Atlanta if not for a game-winning three-pointer from Angel McCoughtry.
That Lynx mark could just as easily be 4-3 just as much as it could be 1-6. And that 4-3 would once again have them in the hunt for a top spot this early in the season.
With the WNBA’s new playoff format being a lot more truncated than the NBA’s, every game matters in terms of seeding meaning close games do make a difference.
Last time we checked, the Lynx still have Moore, they still have Whalen who will give maximum effort regardless of if she took a coaching job at Minnesota or elsewhere. They still have Sylvia Fowles, who we easily forget not only won regular season MVP last year, but also Finals MVP.
And they still have Cheryl Reeve, who has established herself as one of women’s basketball’s premier coaches.
Minnesota does have a huge test coming up later this week – on the road at the (currently) undefeated Connecticut Sun. Who knows if the Sun will still remain unbeaten by that time – they play two more games on the road (at the Dream, at the Liberty) before returning home for that main event showdown with the champs.
That contest will be a key indicator of where the Lynx stand in terms of the overall picture in the WNBA in 2018.
On paper, that game looks like a toss-up. But if there is one thing we have learned over the years is to never count out teams like the Lynx even if they appear out. They appear to be down, and some will even say they have simply become old.
But this is still a four-time championship team that has most of its core from those four rings still intact. As long as that remains the case, Minnesota still remains the team to beat and they will still continue to be a team that is tough to beat.