A Crucial Adjustment for #LosLynx
One play from San Antonio is killing the Minnesota Lynx. Can they make the adjustment tomorrow night?
by Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
Through two games, the San Antonio Silver Stars have out-played the Minnesota Lynx, although the series is tied one game apiece. While there are many factors in determining which team will eventually come away with the win in Game Three Tuesday night in Minneapolis, one play run by San Antonio—and how Minnesota defends it—will be crucial.
“They were switching a lot, so I had a smaller player on me,” said Danielle Adams. “It was there, we worked on it throughout practice and that back-pick Becky sets and I have a mismatch. They threw it to me and I scored every time.”
Whether it is Adams or her teammate Sophia Young, the Stars have been in the mode of “run the same play until they figure out a way to stop it.” Why not? After all, they now have the mighty Minnesota Lynx on the defensive, only a single shot away from sweeping the overall number one seed out of the 2011 playoffs.
“Well, it’s working for them,” said Jessica Adair. “After the first few times it worked, they continued to do it. We’re trying something a little different than we had tried before by switching the guard/post screen. It wasn’t working for us. Now, we go back to the regular game plan hopefully.”
As a team which prides itself on their defense, the Minnesota Lynx have found some frustration in being beaten by the same play over and over again. In order to solve the problem, one must first recognize how it is happening. This is where you listen to your veterans.
“When we switch out, there’s a guard on Adams and they go high/low and we aren’t denying that high pass,” said Taj McWilliams-Franklin. “We’re supposed to be denying out, so they can’t do the high/low. If we deny, they can only skip, but we weren’t, so they kept going high/low. It kept going on and we can’t allow that. We have to stick to what she (Coach Reeve) told us when she told us we would have to deny the high pass to the post player because San Antonio runs that in most of their plays. Whether we have guards down or posts, they normally switch out and have the post players throw high/low like most teams would love, but they do it more often than not.”
Sophia Young is quite comfortable at or above the free throw line, especially when she is given the space and time to make the over-the-top pass. That is why the heart and soul of the Minnesota Lynx believes the key to fixing this reoccurring problem is quite simplistic.
“We have to deny that entry pass to her from the guard to her,” said McWilliams-Franklin. “It has to be denied each and every time. We’re supposed to deny anyway. We were definitely prepared. We’ve been over-prepared. Our coaching staff did a great job preparing us for all of their plays, just like every team in the playoffs knows each other’s plays. We have to do what we’re supposed to do on defense. It makes it a lot easier for us at the end of games.”
“When we do deny, they have a problem,” continued McWilliams-Franklin. “They had to throw it over, scramble out and do other things. It’s nothing special. Dan Hughes doesn’t devise complicated schemes. He does the simple things that work.”
The post defense and lack of communication through the first two games has put the Minnesota Lynx in a tough spot and is one of the main factors as to why there will be a Game Three tomorrow night. Their miscommunications on the defensive end are putting their guards in bad positions and while there was some improvement in the defense of this one main play during Game Two, it must be significantly better tomorrow night to keep San Antonio from leaving Minnesota with a series win.
“All that plays a factor,” adds Adair. “Deny Sophia the ball, so she can’t get the pass off. We do need better post defense from our guards, but in the end, we should keep our big on their big instead of switching and having Lindsay (Whalen) down in the post. It’s kind of tough getting a guard down there, trying to guard Danielle Adams.”
San Antonio is a very well-coached team, as are the Minnesota Lynx. Yet, when you have a player such as Becky Hammon who knows what to expect on the road in the playoffs and is playing with a nothing-to-lose attitude, the pressure is all on Minnesota.
“That’s what it’s going to come down to, one or two plays,” continued Hammon. “That’s the difference in winning championships, that’s the difference in winning series and games is those one or two plays.”
Whichever team makes the best adjustments will win Game Three, but there will be a bit of history made at Target Center Tuesday night. Either the Minnesota Lynx will become only the second team in WNBA history with the best regular season record to lose in the first round…or they will advance in the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s history.
“Clearly, it’s a situation where Game 3 at home for us doesn’t guarantee anything,” said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve. “We’ve got to play better on both sides of the ball and we know that basically San Antonio succeeded in putting the pressure back on us. We fought all season to have home court advantage. You win your home games and you’re WNBA Champions. We’ll find out if we can do it Tuesday in front of our crowd.”
There is one other thing that is a certainty in Game Three: with how these two teams matchup with each other, it will be one hell of a game.