Way back in May, it would have been difficult to imagine the Lynx in the WNBA playoffs. They had started the season 0-6 and were at the bottom of the league standings. And then, they proceeded to win nine of their next 12 games.
On July 12, the Lynx lost by 40 at home to Dallas, the worst loss in franchise history. They responded by going 4-2 in their next six games, including back-to-back road wins at New York and Connecticut.
So there is precedent.
When Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve ended her media conference after Friday's practice, after she had discussed her team's 30-point loss in Connecticut on Friday in the first game of their best-of-three opening first-round playoff series, she made this statement:
"We are going to play better."
They'd better if they want the series to go three games, if they want to play a deciding game at Target Center on Wednesday.
And there is a lot of room for improvement.
It was a very complete 90-60 victory for the third-seeded Sun over the sixth-seeded Lynx. Connecticut hit 16 of 30 three-pointers, a franchise playoff record. The Sun outscored the Lynx 30-9 off turnovers, 16-3 on the break while recording their biggest-ever playoff win and the Lynx's worst playoff loss.
"There was nothing that happened in their coverage we didn't prepare for," Reeve said. "We just didn't execute. We talked about being intentional. About handling business offensively."
The loss of point guard Lindsay Allen to injury Aug. 10 makes it tougher. The Sun are known for pressure defense and were the best in the league at scoring points off turnovers. In Wednesday's game they jumped screens, doubling the ball, often forcing turnovers, more often pushing the Lynx out of an offensive rhythm.
Tiffany Mitchell, her whole career an off-guard, has been moved to the point, initiating — with some help — the offense. She went 0-for-3 with four turnovers Wednesday. And while Napheesa Collier scored 15 points with six rebounds, Reeve talked after the game how disappointed Collier was with herself. Both Diamond Miller (five points) and Dorka Juhász (five) struggled at times in their rookie playoff debut.
So now the team has to bounce back. Precedent says there is a good chance of that happening.
"We don't assign blame on people," Collier said. "We look at ourselves and see what we can do ourselves. We want to do better for each other. That's what allowed us to turn our season around, and it will allow us to play better Sunday."
Kayla McBride led the team in scoring Wednesday with 16 points. She echoed Collier's thoughts.
"It's our chemistry, our personality. We're even-keeled as a group," she said. "When it's time to come together, we find a way. This is another example of that. Win or go home."
Or, win and get to go home and play again.
"It's the quality this team has that allowed us [to rebound] when we were 0-6," Reeve said. "Or when we had a [historic] loss at Target Center. It was not a great feeling following that game. But the quality we have as a team is that it's a very inward-looking group. They're not blaming. They're not outward, blaming. There is a, 'What can I do?' They came back with a great mindset."