Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve has said it all season. With Sylvia Fowles — the final vestige of the Lynx title teams — retired, the focus was going to be on development.
And yet, here they are: A rather historic win in Connecticut on Sunday coupled with the WNBA's rather bizarre first-round playoff schedule has put the sixth-seeded Lynx in position to move onto the league quarterfinals with a home win over third-seeded Connecticut on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Target Center. The game will be broadcast by ESPN.
"The mindset all year was about getting better,'' Reeve said after Minnesota's 82-75 victory in Uncasville, Conn. "We haven't focused on results. And now we're in a situation where Phee [Napheesa Collier], in her young career, took a huge step to be an MVP candidate for much of the season. Phee has put us in position to win her first playoff series.''
But Collier obviously didn't do it alone.
The 1-2 punch of Collier and Kayla McBride was the story Sunday. Collier set career playoff highs in both points (26) and rebounds (13). McBride set career playoff highs in points (28), rebounds (eight) and three-pointers made (6-for-11).
They became the first pair of teammates to each score 25 or more points in a game in Lynx postseason history. McBride's six threes tied Maya Moore for most in a Minnesota playoff game. Collier and McBride became just the fifth pair of teammates to each score at least 25 points and get eight rebounds in a game, and the first since 2016.
The Lynx became the first team in league history to lose a game by at least 30 points and rebound for a win in the subsequent game in the same playoff series.
And now the Lynx get to try to get Collier's first playoff series win, at home.
"That's the next evolution,'' Reeve said. "I'm thrilled with the team that we put ourselves in this position to have a chance to give Phee the opportunity to take the next step."
It will be a challenge. The Sun are a playoff-savvy team, and the Lynx start two rookie players in Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász. And the Lynx were better on the road (10-10) than at home (9-11) this season, with a 40-point loss to Dallas standing as the biggest loss in franchise history.
But the WNBA's schedule for first-round series has the higher-seeded team hosting the first two games, with the lower-seeded team getting a home game should it force a Game 3.
"It feels awesome,'' Collier said. "We have such a great fan base in Minnesota. We know the place will be packed. It will be loud. We're really excited. If we play like this again, we'll be hard to beat. I can't wait for the next game.''
The Lynx will be facing a very motivated Sun team that has advanced out of the first round in six straight seasons, reaching the finals last year.
But McBride hopes that a loud Target Center will be the difference.
"They deserve it,'' McBride said of Lynx fans. "Being able to get this on the road and knowing we're coming back to play a big game? We know they're going to come out, and we want to give it our best for them.''