Had Courtney Vandersloot made one of those two late layup attempts Thursday night, had Gabby Williams’ last-second shot gone done, it would have been different.
The story would be how the Minnesota Lynx let a 12-point lead with less than four minutes to go evaporate in a loss to Chicago. Instead, the story is how the Lynx hung on for an 83-81 victory to give Chicago its first loss of the season while improving to 2-1.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve is happy with where her team is at while knowing there is a long way to go.
She has been impressed with her team’s willingness to be coached. And she loves how the team has adjusted on the fly as coaches learn what works and what doesn’t — and how the team has found a way to win with injuries to Lexie Brown and Karima Christmas-Kelly.
“This team allows itself to be held accountable,” Reeve said Friday, a day off for the team. The Lynx will have a rematch with Connecticut on Saturday afternoon after defeating the Sun in the opener. “And that’s both from the coaches and from the leadership on the team. They listen.”
That rookies Crystal Dangerfield and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan have taken advantage of injuries is also a plus. In a virus-shortened 22-game season, three games can be considered at least a small sample size. Here are some things Reeve has liked and some things that still need work.
- In the first two games Reeve felt Napheesa Collier was perhaps a little too amped up, and it affected her game. On Thursday, Reeve saw the steady Collier that won last year’s Rookie of the Year award. Collier scored 20 points with 10 rebounds. She scored 10 points with six rebounds in the fourth quarter, including five rebounds on the offensive end. Four turned into put-back baskets, the fifth a pass to Damiris Dantas for a 3-pointer. “She was the fundamental Phee we all know,” Reeve said.
- On Thursday, Reeve saw the Rachel Banham she hoped for when she was acquired in the offseason. Physical, aggressive. Banham scored 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting, her biggest scoring game since 2018. She made a 3-pointer, had three rebounds, two assists and two steals. After Christmas-Kelly, a captain, was lost for the season Reeve sat down with Banham and asked her to fill that leadership void. “I told her she needs to step forward,” Reeve said. “She said, ‘Of course.’” Reeve said she felt Banham was playing a little passive. That changed Thursday. “She was going places, going hard,” Reeve said.
- Rebounding. The Lynx have hit the boards hard. Especially Sylvia Fowles, Collier and Damiris Dantas. The Lynx have rebounded all three opponents so far; the team was 15-4 last year when doing so.
- Striving for balance. Reeve thinks the Lynx have tried too hard to get the ball inside to Fowles, at times stagnating the offense and making it easier on opponents. In their loss to Seattle, Collier and Dantas each had six turnovers. The team improved in this area Thursday, with seven players scoring at least eight points. But this trend needs to continue.
- On-court chemistry is still a work in progress, mainly because there are so many new faces. Coaches are still trying to arrive at what works best for this group, culling from and adding to the playbook as they go. Reeve felt the team’s ability to hold on down the stretch Thursday with Fowles having fouled out was a good step.
- Three-point shooting. A point of emphasis in building the roster, the Lynx have struggled here, with their attempts (17.3), makes (5.0) and percentage (.288) down from last year.