Through the first handful of games in the 2019 WNBA season, the Minnesota Lynx have been one of the top defensive teams in the league en route to a 4-1 record.
While carrying a WNBA-best defensive rating of 89.2 and allowing a league-low 67.8 points per game entering the weekend, the Lynx have put up some impressive numbers on defense so far this season.
As of Friday, Minnesota ranks first in the league in steals per game (10), first in opponent 3-point percentage (26.1 percent), first in rebounds allowed (27.6 per game), first in assists allowed (14.2) and fifth in opponents field-goal percentage (41.4 percent), to name a few categories it sits atop.
“We do know that our defense gets us going and that’s always been that way for the Lynx,” Sylvia Fowles said. “Our defense gets us going. … We still have some things to work on, but I think that comes with time. We keep getting better.”
With the exception of its lone loss of the season to the Seattle Storm on June 4, the Lynx have held every opponent under 40 percent shooting from the field so far this season.
Another example of that was in Thursday night’s victory over the Phoenix Mercury, where Minnesota held Phoenix to 36.8 percent shooting and pushed the franchise’s record to 109-3 since 2011 when it holds opponents under that mark.
“Our defense, we left whatever that was in Seattle. … Everyone got on our plane with our defense back, so we brought that back with us,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “To this point in the season, it’s been what’s carried us. When we played it, we’ve won. When we didn’t, we didn’t (win). Our offense has to catch up, obviously.”
Although they have been stellar on the defensive end of the floor and that has in return helped them get off to such a strong start, things on the offensive side of the ball haven’t been as positive for the Lynx.
Through five games, Minnesota ranks ninth in the league in points per game (73.2) after traditionally being one of the top scoring offenses in the WNBA.
It is also averaging a WNBA-worst 18.4 turnovers per game, is 11th out of 12 teams in field-goal attempts per game (62.6), 10th in 3-point attempts (17.4) and holds an assist/turnover ratio of 0.95, which is the second-worst in the league.
“We know that it’ll come, we work on it every single day,” Danielle Robinson said. “Right now, our defense is really holding court for us and we are happy with that. But we are definitely looking forward to better offensive games.”
Although those numbers initially look concerning, the Lynx are shooting 43.8 percent from the field (ranks sixth in the WNBA) and 34.5 percent from three (second-best in the league) despite the low number of attempts per contest. They also rank sixth with 17.4 assists per game.
There are some silver linings within the statistics for Minnesota, but the Lynx know their offense isn’t performing the way it should be and isn’t where it expects it to be right now.
“(Lynx assistant coach) Shelley Patterson is in charge of our offense, and she assured me that our offense would catch up to our defense,” Reeve joked following Minnesota’s win over Phoenix. “I’d have to go back and look at it, maybe we aren’t running the right things. Maybe we have to do some things differently. Anything is on the table right now from an offensive standpoint.”
For a team that is experiencing a large amount of turnover from a year ago, including incorporating four new players to the starting lineup to begin the season, a bumpy start to the year isn’t terribly surprising.
“In the past, we did have some players that could just knock down some shots, but right now we just have to wait for (Seimone Augustus) to get back (from knee surgery) so she can start to open things up a little better,” Fowles said. “Our defense is definitely our number one right now and our offense is slowly starting to work into effect.”
The defense for the Lynx has been the story of the summer thus far as it continues to build off of a 4-1 start to the regular season. Now they just hope that the slow start on the other side of the floor will catch up with it soon.
“We just need to keep in mind, as we work through this, to keep our defense where it is and win the game and just try to improve the next time,” Reeve said.
Minnesota will be back in action on Saturday night when its hosts the Los Angeles Sparks at 2:30 p.m. at Target Center. The game will feature a pre-game ceremony where the Lynx will officially retire Lindsay Whalen’s No. 13 Lynx jersey, the first jersey retired in franchise history.
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