Ervin: Lynx’s remarkable run one of pro sports’ most dominant
Allow it to sink in like a smooth, swift Maya Moore jump shot.
There’s another celebratory airplane landing, another shimmering championship trophy, another parade through the streets of downtown Minneapolis. Here, in the city of collapses, near misses and widespread cynicism when it comes to professional sports fandom.
The Minnesota Lynx have even further separated themselves as an exception this season, glaring as brightly as that hardware WNBA president Laurel J. Richie handed over to Glen Taylor on Thursday night in Atlanta.
The 2011 championship run that started this thing brought newfound attention to a niche game in a market flooded with every athletic-consumption offering imaginable. The return to that pinnacle achieves what Minnesota set out to do when it arrived for training camp back in May.
The Lynx don’t need adulation. They get plenty of that at every home game — at least 8,000-strong, until the playoffs when 12,000 or 13,000 pack the lower bowl of the Target Center.
But one of the most dominant runs in American sports history and most definitely the brightest era in Twin Cities sports history commands respect.
The Lynx didn’t feel they received it from the league or ESPN when both jumped on the “Three to See” bandwagon and spurned them for hipper, sexier television matchups. They’re used to playing second fiddle when there’s a Twins game going on across the Skyway at their old barn’s younger, pristine brother.
As long as it comes with recognition that the Minnesota Lynx just ran roughshod over every obstacle in their path.
That doesn’t happen around here.
The Lynx became just the fourth team in WNBA history to sweep its way to a championship — excluding Houston’s 2-0 showing during the league’s infancy. Among that group, their 15.4 average margin of victory ranks first. They trailed for a shade more than 2 minutes in a Finals series that never looked like it was ending any other way than with Atlanta’s third three-game defeat in the past four seasons.
Only four other WNBA, MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL teams have gone undefeated in a postseason that required seven or more victories en route to claiming a crown.
But you, I and the award-winning sports pundits in this city can’t quantify what Minnesota’s most successful pro franchise did this season, or the past three years for that matter.
Just look at the cast of characters, for one. The mix of personalities on this team flowed together as well as the ball movement demanded by coach Cheryl Reeve you saw on display in Thursday’s Game 3 outlasting of the Dream.
Lindsay the leader. Janel the jovial. Rebekkah the workhorse. Seimone the magnificent. Maya the Most Valuable.
Yeah, you read that right. Los Angeles’ Candace Parker’s a phenomenal basketball player. She’s not Maya Moore.
What a fitting climax it was for the world’s top female player at the moment and her sisters in shellackings Thursday. A Georgia transplant, Moore accumulated a game-high point total that matched the numerals on her sweat-soaked No. 23 jersey in a building where she won three state championships just a few years ago.
It was a perfect summation for this entire group, really.
Point guard Lindsay Whalen scored 15 points and dished out six assists, playing as steady as she has in her 10 years in the league. Seimone Augustus assumed the closer role she’s filled for what seems like forever, notching eight of her 14 points in the fourth quarter as Minnesota held off an Atlanta crew just aching for its first Finals victory. Monica Wright came off the bench she led all season — every reserve had his or her moment in the spotlight at some point — and helped clean up shop, too. Brunson’s 15 point, 10-rebound double-double was as typical as fellow post Janel McCarville’s invaluable contributions that rarely show up in stat lines but pushed this group over the edge all year.
Oh, and the veteran center coming off a two-year break from hoops shot a perfect 5-for-5 in the first half and dished out three assists, most notably a no-look, through the legs dime in transition that Brunson turned into a 3-point play.
Not since McCarville and Whalen led the University of Minnesota to the 2004 Final Four has women’s basketball maintained such prominent standing in this place. What’s poised to turn into a dynasty may not have yet captured the state on as wide of a scale as that monumental March.
But it should at least grab your gaze for a second. Make you turn away from the stadium construction and quarterback controversies and contract disputes for a minute and appreciate what’s happening here.
The young couple that sits directly in front of media row at every home game and the middle-aged men with black-and-blue-painted faces and Whalen jerseys I bump into on my way in and out of the gym might claim this phenomenon outweighs the Vikings game against Carolina this Sunday or the Timberwolves’ season opener Oct. 30.
They can state their arguments. I’m not here to encourage comparison.
A realization that Reeve, Taylor and executive vice president Roger Griffith have delivered as many championships to the Cities in three years as Minnesota’s four major professional organizations ever have. And that Title-Deprived Town possesses a team in the midst of a near-epic journey that doesn’t appear close to over.
Whalen and Augustus just signed three-year extensions. Moore’s about to enter the prime of her career. McCarville held up remarkably well this year. Brunson, too. Wright just turned 25.
This already-unprecedented train is set to keep right on rolling.
Think about that for a minute. This is still Minneapolis/St. Paul, right?
If you want to make sure, we’ll see you Monday morning at 12th and Nicollet.
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