The Lynx’s poor start this season seems like ages ago.
Minnesota started 0-4, and there were questions about what exactly this team would achieve this season. Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve was coaching effort — something she despises doing — and the team looked out of sync on both ends of the floor.
Fast forward four months, and the Lynx (22-10) enter the one-and-done WNBA quarterfinals at 4 p.m. Sunday at Target Center against the Chicago Sky (16-16) as one of the WNBA’s hottest teams.
They earned the No. 3 seed despite Napheesa Collier’s late arrival, Aerial Powers’ persistent injury concerns and more.
“I think it’s kind of made us who we are, some of the shortcomings, the challenges,” Reeve said. “Obviously, that’s all part of the journey. We’ve got some battle wounds, so to speak, and we were tested, all that good stuff. I’m not sure any of it means anything when we go on Sunday, but I think that’s fair to say that we’ve been through some stuff, and we know how to navigate difficult moments in a game.”
Those challenges, the ebbs and flows of a season, are why Lynx forward Natalie Achonwa believes this team is so ready for the postseason.
“Us having to worry about rotations, who you’re playing with this day, who you’re playing with that day because of injuries or because of whatever the circumstance may be, I feel like that’s prepared us the most for playoff time, because that’s how this game goes,” Achonwa said. “You go on runs, other teams go on runs, and you have to be able to come back and compete and dig yourself out of holes sometimes. I think knowing that we’ve had that mentality, that fight, that grit all season long, it’s only going to make us that much more special when we come out and use that mentality in the playoffs.”
Powers was texting a friend of hers this week about how “locked in” the Lynx are at the moment. That’s, frankly, how they’ve been for much of the season. Given the importance of the regular season in this playoff structure that so heavily favors the top seeds, the Lynx’s backs were legitimately against the wall after their poor start to the season. There wasn’t much room for error at that point. So the Lynx didn’t make many mistakes.
The Lynx certainly know how to get back up if they get knocked down. And Chicago has the type of firepower to knock a team down multiple times throughout any given game.
“We’ve been through it. We’ve had leads, we’ve given up leads. We’ve had a team kind of punch us early and we have to hang in there,” Reeve said. “I think at this point, if you’re a playoff team, you’ve probably experienced these things and found success. You just hope that the runs aren’t too big. We know it’s what (the Sky) do. It’s part of their identity, and good teams stop the bleeding, and we’ll see if that’s the thing we’re able to do on Sunday.”
Powers seems confident they will.
“I feel confident about this playoff run. I feel like we can be a championship team,” she said. “I hit up Coach the other day, I said, ‘It’s an odd year, so I think it’s the perfect time (to win it all),’ so I’m excited.”