What disappointed Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve about Friday’s season-opening 77-75 loss to the Phoenix Mercury was her team’s hustle plays.
There weren’t enough of them.
“Our transition defensive efforts, our lackluster rebounding,” Reeve said. “That was something we’ve talked about the entire training camp, but I think seeing themselves, maybe they recognize that part.”
Reeve told her team the coaching staff can work on schemes and strategy. But effort?
“I can’t coach that part,” Reeve said. “There were a lot of effort plays. Not intentional.”
That’s where Reeve comes in. The Lynx aren’t a team in great physical condition at the moment. Reeve discussed that at length in training camp, as she intentionally brought players along slowly.
Then things jumped up to warp speed in the regular-season opener. All five Lynx starters played 30-plus minutes in Friday’s game. This after Aerial Powers and Sylvia Fowles didn’t play in the one preseason game. And Reeve, prior to the season, said the plan was to keep Fowles around the 24-minute range during the season.
“I played people too long, too many minutes consecutively,” Reeve said. “I didn’t use our bench enough.”
It’s understandable. Minnesota’s four bench players combined for just five points. Their plus-minus numbers were poor. Power forward Natalie Achonwa committed five fouls in just 13 minutes. And Phoenix was playing its starters heavy minutes, too. Reeve was merely trying to fight fire with fire to keep pace after the Lynx’s slow start.
“I know that when Natalie was in foul trouble, that really felt like Syl needed to be the one that was out there when (Brittney Griner) was out there for so long,” Reeve said. “I didn’t necessarily love the idea of (Damiris) Dantas or Jess Shepard being the ones. I do wish I’d played Jess a little bit more. Dantas played too many minutes.”
Reeve said there may have been some frustration on her part after thinking Rachel Banham didn’t properly execute an end-of-quarter situation, which upon review, Reeve said wasn’t even Banham’s fault.
“And playing someone like Aerial Powers, who simply was not in game shape, for the extended minutes that I did for no good reason,” Reeve said. “I think both teams kind of got locked in on our starters. That’s what Phoenix does, and I got caught up in it, feeling like when you start to get behind, you feel like you need to have that group out there competing with them, otherwise you fear that the lead might grow. So it’s very easy after the game to go back and feel like, ‘If I would’ve done this differently or that differently.’
“Ultimately, it was a game we could’ve won despite a laundry list of things that need to be better. But we were right there with a chance to win it.”
But you can bet the bench will see more action in Tuesday’s game in New York against the Liberty.
Napheesa Collier returned from play overseas and arrived in the Twin Cities on Sunday.
But Collier’s situation isn’t the same as that of Kayla McBride, who was able to play in Friday’s game because she had previously had and recovered from COVID-19.
Collier needs to record six straight negative tests, putting her out until at least this weekend.