Perhaps one of the more surprising developments across the WNBA in the opening week of the 2019 regular season has been the undefeated start to the year from the Minnesota Lynx.
The Lynx took down the Dallas Wings on Saturday night in their first road game of the season, improving to a perfect 3-0 overall to remain the last undefeated team in the league. It is the eighth time in franchise history that they have started the year off 3-0, most recently doing so in 2017.
When looking at Minnesota and finding one of the reasons behind its strong start to the season, you immediately look at its dominant performance on the defensive end of the floor.
The Lynx have continued to play stellar defense to kick off the year, already established themselves as one of the top defensive teams in the WNBA through the first week of the regular season.
“Defensively, that has carried us,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said following the team’s win over the Seattle Storm on Wednesday. “That’s what we do, we defend and we rebound. … We are athletic, we’re persistent. They get through screens well, they take a lot of pride in that. Every time we play, we hope that we are hard to play against.”
For a team that added a large number of new faces to its roster this season, the fact that Minnesota is as connected as they have been thus far on the defensive end is impressive. And it has ultimately led to its undefeated start to the year and a spot atop the league standings.
“We just try to stay solid and stick to our defensive concepts and try to make sure we rebound the ball,” said newcomer Odyssey Sims, a player brought in during the offseason to help bolster Minnesota defensively with her well-known toughness. “I’m just here to do whatever Cheryl needs me to do.”
Through the first three games of the year, the Lynx have held all three of their opponents to shooting under 40 percent from the field in the victories. Since 2011, Minnesota maintains a record of 108-3 when holding opponents under that shooting mark.
Entering Sunday, the Lynx rank first in the league in defensive rating (86.6), first in opponent 3-point percentage (20.4 percent), second in opponent field-goal percentage (38 percent), third in rebounds per game (41.3), third in turnovers forced (13.3) and sixth in steals (8.3).
“Our defense has put us in the right place at the right time. It allows us to do what we do, it allows the posts to front their defenders and have help-side on the back,” Sylvia Fowles said. “We have these fresh young legs that don’t mind going side-to-side multiple times, so it helps and it works in our favor. … We have those guards that can fly around and get in transition and do some wonderful things from the defensive to offensive end.”
The Lynx offense has been fairly average to start the year. But if Minnesota can continue to play the way it has been on the defensive end of the floor thus far, its offense isn’t necessarily required to be outstanding to come out with a win.
The Lynx offensive numbers mainly rank in the top half of the league in multiple categories following Saturday night’s win over the Wings.
They rank third in the WNBA in assists per game (19), fifth in shooting percentage (42.8 percent), fifth in offensive rating (100.6), tied for sixth in points per game (77) and seventh in three-point percentage (30.4 percent). They also get to the free throw line an average of 21.3 times per game, which is the second-most in the WNBA, shooting 75 percent from the line.
Minnesota’s offense continues to work out the kinks and work towards creating more flow within its offense to begin the year, something that the Lynx knew they would be faced with while incorporating a handful of new players into the rotation.
The fact that the Lynx are off to an undefeated start early on in the year has been a pleasant surprise for a team that is in the first year of a transition from losing multiple key players from a year ago.
If Minnesota can continue to improve things on the offensive end while maintaining its dominant defense on the other end, we will continue to see the Lynx stick around the top of the WNBA standings and build onto their strong start to the regular season so far.
“We definitely have a lot of work to do, but this is also a new team as well. We are still learning each other and knowing where each other are, but it’ll come,” Sims said. “We are going to keep taking it game-by-game and day-by-day, especially in the film room and in practice, and keep pushing each other and get better.”