There are currently two franchises in professional American team sports that have advanced to championships in their respective leagues in at least three consecutive seasons. One is the Miami Heat, who just made it to their fourth straight NBA Finals. The other is the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx.
Quiet as it may be kept, the Lynx – champions in 2011 and 2013, and runners-up in 2012 – are among the most dominant teams in all of sports. Off to a 7-0 start and leading the league in scoring, three-point field goal percentage, fast break points, and points in the paint thus far in the 2014 season, they’re well on their way to making a fourth straight finals appearance like their male counterparts.
“They’re damn good,” said Chicago Sky coach Pokey Chatman after a recent three-point loss to the defending champs. “Not to take anything away from other teams that have dynamic players, as well, [but the Lynx] have a comfort with each other. They get along, they’re a well-oiled machine and I think that adds to the flavor.”
The flavor includes three of the very best players in the league: Maya Moore, Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen, all Olympians. To start the season, Moore went off for 30-plus points in each of the first four games, and now leads the league in scoring at 27.6 points per game. Against the Sky, however, she was held to just 14, but Augustus added 17 and Whalen led with 22 to pick up the slack.
“What makes our team so good – we do have three Olympians – is that if Maya only scores 14, she didn’t get her 30, Seimone and Lindsey know it’s their time,” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve. “If Maya’s being heavily guarded, that’s fine. Well, we’ll go to Seimone and to Lindsay.”
“They have a lot of heads to the snake which is why they’re such a great team,” said 2013 Rookie of the Year Elena Delle Donne. “Not only that, but they’re a smart team, so they make great reads, too. They don’t always have to run their offense, they just read off of one another, so it does get difficult.”
While most teams have one – sometimes two – go-to options, the Lynx have three, along with the invaluable chemistry and continuity that come experience. Down by two late in the fourth quarter, they closed the Sky out with a poised 12-4 run to make out with a 75-72 victory. They play and carry themselves with an exuding “been there, done that” mentality.
“We’ve been together a lot and been through some battles over the years,” Whalen said. “It was one of those games where you knew it was going to come down to some end-of-the-game situations, and making plays and being able to get stops down the stretch is big. It feels like we’ve had to do that a lot these last few games, and luckily we’ve all been playing together for so long that we’ve been able to get these wins.”
“We love the last five minutes of the game,” added Reeves. “That’s what we work for. We prepare practice for those situations. It’s a group that’s played together, so they have an understanding, they know not to panic, they’re veterans. We kind of have this mindset that we work, work, work until that moment that you break a team, and when you break a team, you know it and you finish it out.”
In many ways, they simply take on the personality of their point guard Whalen, undoubtedly one of the best in the business. “She’s a pro. She’s, I think, the best point guard in the league. She’s my point guard Olympian. There’s not a point guard that’s more mentally and physically tough than Lindsay Whalen.”
The WNBA is still a young league, rarely getting much, if any, national publicity, but that doesn’t diminish the Lynx’s success. Winning and sustained excellence are transcendent qualities throughout all of sports.