As the Lynx's 2023 season began, you had to wonder whether they were tanking. Then you had to wonder why they weren't.
They lost their first six games. In a league filled with stars and topped with new-age super teams built via free agency, they struck out in free agency and the best player on the roster, Napheesa Collier, was recovering from her pregnancy.
Two star players from the Midwest, Paige Bueckers and Caitlin Clark, would be available soon in the WNBA draft. Why spend a season fighting back toward .500 when you could play to improve your draft positioning?
The Lynx provided a vehement answer to that question Sunday afternoon in Connecticut. They were facing elimination against the Connecticut Sun, who finished third in the WNBA regular-season standings, have one of the world's best players in Alyssa Thomas and watched their coach, Stephanie White, receive the league Coach of the Year award in a pregame ceremony.
On Wednesday night in Connecticut, the Sun defeated the Lynx 90-60, and yes, the game really was that lopsided. The Lynx were clearly outclassed, and what would you expect from a group that had to overachieve just to secure a No. 6 seed in a 12-team league?
On Sunday, the Lynx took control of the game in the third quarter, withstood the inevitable Sun run and cruised to an 82-75 victory.
Collier left the game because of a back injury before returning. Rachel Banham inadvertently smashed Sun star DeWanna Bonner in the face with an elbow. Thomas played her usual emotional game, and so did Lynx rookie Diamond Miller, who tangled with Thomas literally and figuratively. Kayla McBride, the Lynx's second-best player, scored 28 points and added eight rebounds while making many of the game's biggest shots.
"It was fun," Collier said.
Reacting to one game, in any sport at any time, can prove foolish, but the Lynx on Sunday at least offered reason to believe that they can remain relevant and competitive without tanking — the practice of losing on purpose to improve draft position.
This season, Collier has improved from quality all-around player to star. McBride, who often during her Lynx tenure has slumped or disappeared offensively, played well enough this season as Collier's co-star that Reeve signed her to a multiyear contract extension.
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