Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lynx Eliminated from Playoff Contention

The Seattle Storm beat the L.A. Sparks last night, 76-75. Not only did the Storm thus finish an the WNBA's first-ever undefeated home schedule and tie for the most wins (28) in the league's history. The Storm also put the Minnesota Lynx out of their misery, as their win clinched a playoff spot for the San Antonio Silver Stars and eliminated the Lynx from playoff contention.

With the loss, the Sparks finish 13-21. San Antonio also has 13 wins, while the Lynx have 12, and each has one more game to go. The Lynx' last playoff scenario was to beat Indiana tonight while San Antone lost to Phoenix. Each would thus finish 13-21 and the Lynx have the tie-breaker over the Silver Stars by virtue of a 3-2 lead head-to-head. But now, with the Sparks' loss to Seattle, they too finish 13-21 and the head-to-head tie-break with San Antone no longer pertains. It's now a 3-way tie-breaker, in which the Lynx come in 3rd.

The next to last nail in the Lynx' coffin was a pair of losses on a west coast road trip--68-64 at Seattle, and 98-91 at L.A. Characteristic of the Lynx' late-season fade, Minnesota coughed up the lead in the 4th quarter in both games. The story of the Lynx' season is they blew a total of 9--count 'em, 9--double digit leads (in just a 34 game schedule).

At Seattle, the Lynx led by as much as 28-12 early on, and still led 56-54 at the 3rd quarter break. Seattle finally caught up at 58, and took their first lead since 2-0 at 61-60. The Lynx took their final lead at 62-61, then were out-scored 7-2 down the stretch. They hit just 3-of-13 shots in the 4th quarter, and missed all 7 3-point attempts. They also gave up 5 Seattle offensive boards in the 4th.

At L.A., the Lynx led 59-49 at 4:31 of the 3rd quarter, and got out-scored 49-32 the rest of the way. L.A. made a remarkable 20-of-28 shots in the 2nd half, including 14-of-17 2-point attempts. The Sparks took their first lead since 16-15 at 77-74 and quickly built it to 88-78, meaning they had a 39-19 edge after trailing by 10 in the 3rd quarter.

You will recall the pattern. On August 12 and 13, the Lynx lost a pair of games to L.A. and Washington. Against the Sparks, again, the Lynx led early and late--27-10 in the 1st, 59-53 after 3, and 72-68 late in the 4th quarter before losing. Against Washington, it was 40-29 Lynx at the half, and Minnesota led 58-54 inside of 2 minutes.

Ten days earlier came the biggest collapse of all, though it was one that the Lynx were able to recover from. Midway through the 2nd period, the Lynx had a seemingly insurmountable lead of 51-21, but a buzzer-beating 3-pointer forced OT. Fortunately, the Lynx pulled that one out 111-103, or they woulda/coulda/shoulda blown 10 double digit leads. You'd almost want to suggest that they need a point guard who can control the tempo in such games, but they just brought in hometown hero Lindsay Whalen as their long-term solution at the positioin. Or, you might suggest that they need a scorer who can get that big bucket down the stretch, but they've already got one of the league's best scorers in Seimone Augustus. Too bad she disappeared down the stretch.

Or, you might say they need to get a defensive stop in the clutch now and then. Or, how about a defensive stop any time. This has been a terrible defensive team all year long, for which the players and coach all share the blame. When you get down too it, that is the reason this team missed missed the playoffs for the 10th time in 12 seasons.

So, three items of business for the off-season: Replace coach Cheryl Reeves with somebody who won't get out-coached in the 4th quarter time and again, and who can devise a defensive scheme that our offensive minded roster can get their heads around. Get everybody healthy: It is true that the Lynx would have made the playoffs but for injuries to superstar Augustus and young all-star Candice Wiggins. And three, hope like hell to get Maya Moore in the 2011 WNBA draft. In addition to their own draft pick, the Lynx also own that of the Connecticut Sun and so own two of the four lottery draft picks (and an estimated 37 of 100 chances to win the #1 pick).

And as a corollary, if you get Moore, move whomever occupies her position in favor of an experienced center with a passion for defense and defensive boards.

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