The Minnesota Lynx winning the WNBA championship — it’s almost come to be expected.
Flipping the calendar to an odd year has always been good news for head coach Cheryl Reeve and her team. Minnesota won WNBA titles in 2011, 2013 and 2015 – meaning the stars will align again in 2017, right?
Beginning her eighth season at the helm, Reeve has established the Lynx as a dynasty never seen in Minnesota professional sports history. Five championship appearances and three rings in seven years has solidified Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus as household names across the Twin Cities.
Since taking over the Lynx in 2010, Reeve has posted a franchise-best 168-70 record.
Minnesota Lynx under Cheryl Reeve
Lost Finals (3-2) to Los Angeles Sparks
Won Finals (3-2) over Indiana Fever
Lost Western Conference finals (2-1) to Phoenix Mercury
Won Finals (3-0) over Atlanta Dream
Lost Finals (3-1) to Indiana Fever
Won Finals (3-0) over Atlanta Dream
What makes a dynasty? Having a core group of All-Star players helps, of course. Whalen, Augustus and Moore have played together since the latter was drafted No. 1 overall in 2011.
Moore brought her athleticism, pure jump shot and contagious winning attitude with her to Minnesota, naturally changing the culture for good — because winning follows Moore wherever she goes.
Dating back to 2005 when she was still in high school, Moore has played in a championship game or series in 10 of her past 12 basketball seasons. She was a three-time high school champion in Georgia (2005-07) and a two-time national champion at UConn (2009-10) before even suiting up once at the Target Center and leading the Lynx to three rings. Oh, and she’s also won two Olympic gold medals with Team USA.
The two seasons Moore finished without playing for a title? The first year was 2008, when UConn lost to Stanford in the national semifinals, and again in 2014 when the Lynx fell short in the Western Conference finals.
The WNBA knows it has something special in its hands with the Lynx All-Star trio. When the league celebrated 20 years of existence in 2016 with a list of the top-20 WNBA players of all time, Moore, Whalen and Augustus were all selected, meaning the Lynx currently have 15 percent of the WNBA’s all-time greats on their roster.
With last year’s WNBA Finals tied at two games, the Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks battled down to the wire in Game 5 for all the marbles. Los Angeles was somehow able to grab two offensive rebounds in its final possession of the game and scored the title-clinching basket with 3.1 seconds left.
Whalen’s half-court heave clanked off the backboard and the final buzzer sounded, meaning the Sparks had won their first ring since winning back-to-back titles in 2001-02.
But it wasn’t won without controversy. The WNBA was forced to apologize a few days after the Finals for a missed call with 1:14 remaining in Game 5. Sparks’ Nneka Ogwumike released a go-ahead bucket after the shot clock had expired … But the confetti had already fallen, and it was too late.
The Lynx will look for vengeance in 2017.
Minnesota returns its top eight scorers from last year’s team, which finished only one victory shy of the most regular-season wins in WNBA history.
Newcomers like former WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year Plenette Pierson and first-round pick Alexis Jones will boost depth on the bench. Jones, a combo guard from Baylor, impressed in two preseason games. She scored a combined 19 points and added six assists and four rebounds while averaging 17.5 minutes per game.
Jones likely won’t be relied on that heavily in the regular season. But the Lynx now have a guard that can play significant minutes when necessary while being groomed for the future by a 35-year-old Whalen.
CIRCLE THE CALENDAR
— Hopkins native Nia Coffey returns to the Target Center with the San Antonio Stars on May 28 after being selected No. 5 overall in the WNBA Draft. Coffey, the older sister of Minnesota Gophers guard Amir Coffey, finished a successful four-year collegiate career as Northwestern’s all-time leader in rebounds (1,183) as well as second in points (2,287).
— Minnesota has three opportunities to avenge its Finals loss to the Sparks: July 6 (home), Aug. 11 (home), Aug. 27 (away). Last year, the Lynx won two of three regular-season matchups against Los Angeles.
— FOX Sports North is televising 17 Minnesota Lynx games this summer. Check out the broadcasting schedule here.