The Lynx fell short in their quest for a WNBA repeat,
losing in four games. The old saying that it is tough to get to the top and even more difficult to stay there certainly played true in this series. The Lynx had breezed their way through the regular season but were met in the Finals by a team that was more physical and flat out more hungry.
Advancing to a second straight WNBA Finals is a no question a great accomplishment. While we won't pile on following defeat, it is important to look inside the numbers to determine what went wrong.
Cliché as it might be, to win at a high level you need to have great guard play. It was never more evident than this series especially on the defensive end of the floor. Erin Philips and Briann January combined for a +31 points for/against when they were on the floor. Lindsay Whalen and Siemone Augustus combined for a -52 which speaks volumes to the quality of guard play in the series.
In the 10 games the Lynx lost this season including playoffs, Augustus averaged 13 points per game down five points from her stats in Lynx wins.
Fever starting point guard Katie Douglas didn't touch the floor in any meaningful way in the series after spraining her ankle in the conference finals.
Body language is huge in sports. The Fever broke the Lynx will in game one and even though Cheryl Reeve's team rallied in game two, it always felt as though Indiana had the mental edge. Following Reeve's jacket throwing incident in game two that resulted in a technical, it seemed as though every call was questioned by the team. The bottom line is that grit wins championships, and the Fever were the more gritty team. Indiana played like the more desperate team while the Lynx played with a ‘wait a minute, don't you know who we are?' attitude.
Focus is required to win the final seven games of the season. Starting from the top down, there were too many times during the Finals where the team was concerned about what call was or wasn't being made, mocking the crowd calling for a technical foul and yes, even throwing jackets.
The starting five were forced to play the majority of the minutes in the playoffs, and with good
reason. The bench struggled to get going into any rhythm and scored more than 18 points only three times during the nine game playoff run. They were held under 10 points the other six games. One of the themes entering the season was the depth of the team. For the most part, that played out during the regular season, but once the playoffs hit it was almost as if everyone was waiting for someone else to step up.
The depth advantage should have gone to the Lynx in the series with Douglas out of the picture. Jessica Davenport and Karima Christmas were the only two Fever players who played more than 30 minutes in the entire series.
Cleaning the glass:
Elana Larkins owned life in the lane from a rebounding perspective. In the three wins, she had 15,15 and 13 boards including 21 offensive rebounds. The Lynx found themselves outrebounded 87-82 in the series with Indiana holding a 53-41 edge on the offensive side.
Defense wins…yeah, you know:
The Fever did everything defensively to make the Lynx possessions rough. They trapped, they were physical, they forced the Lynx into bad shots, and it worked. They played the role of the bully on the block that was going to take your candy and force you to thank them. From the opening tip of game one to the final buzzer, the Fever played championship defense.
A solid core of Augustus, Whalen and Maya Moore will return as will Rebekkah Brunson what isn't as certain is if Taj McWilliams-Franklin gives it another year. There will be changes to the roster. Most likely to add depth to a team that lacked it when it mattered the most.