The Lynx Can’t Defend? So What?
The Minnesota Lynx won’t have a hard time piling up the points.
by Clay Kallam
At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins.
It doesn’t matter if the final is 83-81 or 63-61. It doesn’t matter if one team dives on the floor all the time, or screens out with the fervor of a Catholic arriving at Lourdes. It doesn’t matter if one team is filled with defensive demons, or if the coach is known for her elaborate rotations.
All that matters is who has the most points.
With that in mind, consider the 2011 Minnesota Lynx, who unquestionably will arrive at the arena with a bus full of talent. At the same time, though, a lot of observers seriously doubt whether Cheryl Reeve’s team can match up with teams like Los Angeles and Phoenix, much less challenge Seattle for the top spot in the West. They say:
—Point guard Lindsay Whalen, they say, couldn’t defend an 18-wheeler.
—Rebekkah Brunson is the tallest post player, and even though she jumps out of the gym, she’s only 6-2, has bad knees and is inconsistent.
—Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who will play tons of minutes, is 73 years old.
—Seimone Augustus’ next defensive stop will be her first.
—Maya Moore is an unproven rookie.
—Amber Harris plays the same position as Brunson, Augustus and Moore, and doesn’t play hard every night.
—There’s no backup point guard.
—There’s no defensive stopper on the perimeter and no size in the paint.
To a greater or lesser extent, all of the above is true. Minnesota will have trouble defending, does have a lot of players who play the same position, and lacks an inside presence offensively and defensively.
But here’s the thing: the Lynx are going to score. In fact, the Lynx are going to score so efficiently that, barring disaster, they will simply overwhelm the above weaknesses because their side of the scoreboard will change so quickly.
Whalen may not be a great defender, or even an elite point guard, but she’s pretty good – and if she’s not guarded well, she can score and distribute.
Augustus is one of the premier players in the game, and at 6-2, is a difficult matchup. But of course a team that has a defender to stop Augustus better have another one just like her to stop Moore. Or Harris. Or Charde Houston (who might not even make the team).
And McWilliams-Franklin also must be guarded. She’s not going to be the centerpiece of anyone’s offense, but she can make the open 15-footer so if post players leave her to try and help on Augustus, Moore, Whalen, Houston, Harris or Candice Wiggins (that’s right, I haven’t mentioned her yet) or Monica Wright (another perimeter threat on the roster), then McWilliams-Franklin will make shots all night long.
Then there’s Brunson, who is still one of the great leapers in the game, and on those nights when the elbow jumper is falling, is all but impossible to guard.
But for whatever reason—perhaps a leftover from the Puritan work ethic—there’s a prejudice in the world of basketball against offense. Coaches and commentators prefer gritty defense and tough rebounders, and can’t talk enough about how important they are. That’s great, but at the end of the game, it’s not the team with the most steals that wins. It’s not the team that took the most charges, or had the most deflections. It’s not the team with the most rebounds.
It’s the team with the most points, and Minnesota’s going to get a lot every night. And unlike Phoenix, say, which relies on a couple players to carry the offense, the Lynx can just keep running scorers on the floor. Augustus is struggling? Maybe Wright will be hot. Or Wiggins. Or Harris. Or Brunson.
Minnesota just has too many weapons to sputter offensively very often, and the Lynx have so much depth they can absorb injuries that most teams can’t.
Sure, they have issues. Granted, they don’t play the way that purists want the game to be played. But when the horn sounds, what matter is who has the most points – and Minnesota’s going to have a lot. Every night.
And points are how you win games.