Sports

/

ArcaMax

Lynx aren't a 'super team,' but they lead WNBA in chemistry

Kent Youngblood, Star Tribune on

Published in Basketball

MINNEAPOLIS — You can take all the numbers, all the stats — and there are a lot of them — that will describe how the Lynx offense has evolved, improved. How it has become the best and most efficient 3-point attack, so far, in the WNBA.

You can note the team leads the league in field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, 3s made per game, assists, scoring. How the team has five of the top-15 3-point shooters in the game, including the top two in Kayla McBride and Alanna Smith.

But, to coach Cheryl Reeve, all the numbers come down to this:

Chemistry.

"The movement we get, the sharing of the ball?" Reeve said. "They're having fun with that part of it."

The Lynx are 9-3 heading into Friday's game with Los Angeles at Target Center. They have won two straight, five of their last six, seven of their last nine.

Before the Lynx beat the host Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday, Reeve talked about how different this team was than perhaps some of the other top WNBA teams.

There are so-called "super teams" like New York and Vegas, which has four Team USA Olympians. The Lynx have a superstar in Napheesa Collier. Around her they have constructed a team of quality players who know the game. They all have something to add to the mix, but none of them care who gets credit for the recipe.

"From the beginning of training camp the chemistry has been through the roof," Reeve said. "The chemistry is the part that's by design, the selection of people you bring in. That was very intentional. You always try to do that. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong."

This time, so far, it looks like the Lynx got it right.

In the offseason the Lynx signed guard Courtney Williams and Smith to play center. They traded for Natisha Hiedeman and brought Olivia Époupa over from France.

Williams' mid-range game might not fit precisely into today's analytics-driven game. But she, Hiedeman and Époupa can pressure the ball on the perimeter on defense and get into the paint on offense.

Smith is not a dominant low-post presence, but she's a good high-post passer, and Reeve's staff has altered the offense to look more like it did while winning titles in 2011 and 2013 with high-post passers Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Janel McCarville.

 

In Tuesday's 14-point victory over the Aces, the Lynx became the first team in league history to have all five starters score at least 14 points (none more than Smith's 18), get at least four rebounds (none more than Collier's six) and make at least one 3-pointer in the same game.

Add to that: all five starters had an assist, with Williams (nine), McBride (eight) and Collier (six) leading the way.

"It's just the way the ball moves," said McBride, whose shooting has reached a new level. She has already tied a league record for most 3s made in consecutive games (15) and leads the league in 3-point shooting at 51.7%. (For the record, Smith is second at 48.6%, Cecilia Zandalasini seventh at 44.0%, Bridget Carleton ninth at 41.8% and Collier 14th at 37.8%).

"As a shooter you love that." McBride added. "It's like, me and [Carleton] are salivating. We are just sharing the ball. We are making the right play. We're not doing anything special. We're just sharing the ball.''

The Lynx's improved defense — which Reeve will also credit to the team's cohesiveness — has a lot to do with it; offensive efficiency improves when you don't have to take the ball out of the net.

And it helps that both McBride and Carleton are on tears. McBride is 23 for 41 on 3s the last five games, Carleton 14 for 23. The Lynx have already had two games with 15 3s made, tied for second-most in team history, and 14, tied for fifth.

Minnesota is shooting 41.8% from 3 through 12 games. No team has ever shot better than 40.9% over the course of the season.

But here's another key stat: the Lynx lead the league in assists per game (25.0), which would be another WNBA record it if holds up.

That speaks to the team's unselfish nature. In their last two games, the Lynx have picked up assists on 59 of 64 made field goals.

To Reeve, it's a combination of generosity and basketball IQ. That has allowed Reeve to pair down the playbook, go with a few simple actions to initiate the offense, trusting her players will do the right thing.

"Since Day 1 the energy was kind of different," McBride said. "The chemistry. It's just so organic. We know everyone on the team is confident in who they are as players. When you have that, you're able to morph it to be whatever you need to be for the team."


©2024 StarTribune. Visit startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus