Lynx hope to turn up heat versus Mercury

The Minnesota Lynx are in unfamiliar territory.

But they aren’t panicking.

The Lynx, who won their first nine games en route to a 13-1 start in 2017, are 2-3 after back-to-back road losses against Washington and Atlanta.

“Anybody that’s pushing the panic button is stupid,” coach Cheryl Reeve told the (St. Paul, Minn.) Pioneer Press as her team prepared to host Phoenix on Friday in Minneapolis. “It’s a 34-game season. All of our goals are still intact, and we have winners on this basketball team and we’ll find a way. I don’t know how many games we’re going to win, but if anybody’s panicking, I don’t want you around us.”

However, Reeve said, the WNBA’s defending champions “better have a sense of urgency.”

A year ago, Minnesota, which finished the regular season 27-7 on the way to a title, was never below .500 at any point.

This year’s Lynx are not the “well-oiled machine” they have been in recent seasons, Reeve acknowledged.

But Minnesota’s early season problems are not a mystery to the coach.

“We know what we have to get done, period,” Reeve said. “It’s not complicated, it doesn’t take analytics, it doesn’t take magical plays or schemes. It takes what we know wins basketball games, which is a passion for what you’re doing.”

Lynx center Sylvia Fowles, the league’s reigning MVP, said her team needs to get back to basics, back to “playing simple.”

The Mercury, also 2-3, entered the season with similar high hopes, if not the recent Minnesota resume.

Phoenix enters Friday’s contest, the first of three straight on the road, with a three-game losing streak.

Worse still: The Lynx have beaten the Mercury 13 times in a row, dating back to August 2015, including the 2015 and 2016 playoffs.

Phoenix is coming off a 103-95 home loss to Washington on Wednesday. It was the most points the Mercury had given up since allowing 105 against Minnesota in August of last season — and that was without Mystics star Elena Delle Donne, who missed the game with an illness.

Mercury point guard Briann January said facing Washington without its star changed the dynamic of the game.

“Not to say it would be easier if she was in because the ball goes through her,” January told the Arizona Republic. “Without her, the ball is moving and everybody is touching it. It presented a different challenge for us, which was tough. They’ve been shooting lights out, everybody is playing their role really well. We didn’t things away the way we needed to.”

Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi, the WNBA’s career scoring leader, said she believes her team’s problems are simple.

“Right now, we’re complicating ourselves with a lot of talk and bull,” she said. “We’ve got to do what we need to do to win the game. I don’t think we’re doing that right now.

“Every first quarter, we come out and do fine then throughout the 40 minutes, we lose whatever consistency. We’re just not doing it from 1 to 11 (players). We’re not playing consistent, we’re not mentally focused. We’re not doing the things that you need to do to win. When you don’t do them, you look dumb and stupid, you get frustrated. That’s where everyone is at right now. I’ve got to play better, I’ve got to do more, I’ve got to be more focused.”