HANSEN: Why are the Lynx Struggling?

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no way around it, the Minnesota Lynx have struggled to start the 2018 season.

In pursuit of defending their title from a season ago, Minnesota’s season has started off in a way that doesn’t suggest that pursuit.

The Lynx fell to the Los Angeles Sparks 77-69 on Sunday afternoon at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles. That loss extended Minnesota’s losing streak to four straight in the young season.

Let’s take a deeper look at what has taken place so far this year for Minnesota and what this all could mean for one of the WNBA’s most dominant teams in history moving forward.

Uncharted Territory

Minnesota’s loss to Los Angeles dropped them to 2-5 on the season, currently sitting in 10th place in the WNBA standings.

The Lynx, as mentioned earlier, have also now lost four straight games, the longest losing streak since the team lost five in a row in 2010 — EIGHT years ago. That season was the first year with now head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve, guard Lindsay Whalen and forward Rebekkah Brunson in Minnesota and was the season prior to the franchise drafting Maya Moore with the No. 1 overall pick.

Although it is really early in the season and a seven-game sample probably isn’t cause for panic just yet, this is uncharted territory. The current core of players that joined forces in 2011 and have been near the top of theĀ  WNBA every year since — it’s weird, if nothing else, to see them like this.

Will they be able to turn things around soon and dig themselves out of the hole they are currently in? That could end up being a tough uphill battle for one of the best starting fives the league has ever seen.

Behind the NumbersĀ 

All the talk behind Minnesota’s rough start isn’t just because the Lynx are losing games, but rather the way they have lost those games.

Turnovers have been one thing that has been a killer for Minnesota this season, currently fourth in the league while hovering around 16 turnovers a game.

Comparing this season’s numbers thus far to last season’s is somewhat surprising (and yes, the sample sizes are obviously different).

The Lynx were dominant in numerous categories in 2017, most notably sharing the ball within their high-powered offense that could flip things around and become scrappy on the defensive end.

So far in 2018, that has nearly flipped.

Points Per Game Assists Steals Off. Rating Def. Rating
2017 85.3 (3rd in WNBA) 20.5 (2nd) 8.1 (3rd) 108.3 (1st) 94.1 (1st)
2018 76.6 (10th in WNBA) 17.3 (7th) 5.7 (11th) 95.2 (9th) 99.6 (5th)

Once again, it’s seven games into a season and playing styles obviously change from year to year, but the difference in the two seasons is already becoming apparent.

We Are Still Talking About the Lynx

Yes, the struggles are concerning.

We are, though, still talking about the dynasty that is the Lynx. A team that is one of the most decorated in the league’s 22-year existence and one that is coming off of winning a championship a year ago.

Regardless of age and some roster turnover, Minnesota still has one of the most talented rosters in the WNBA and an all-time great head coach.

We’re not used to seeing these kinds of struggles out of Minnesota, especially after its dominance just a few months ago in the WNBA Finals.

It could be age catching up to the Lynx. It could be the tough schedule Minnesota has had to endure early on in the year, mostly on the road. It could be everyone still getting used to each other after a busy offseason.

Regardless of what the explanation is, the Lynx will be the first to tell you that it needs to be figured out — and quickly. After all, we are already nearing the quarter mark in the 2018 WNBA season.

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