Minnesota Lynx Preview: July 1st-8th

Now that the Lynx have clambered back up into the playoff picture, a new goal is in sight. Their old rival, the Sparks, are tied with the Seattle Storm for the second seed. If the Lynx, who sit just a game and a half back, can overtake these teams, they will earn an immensely valuable double-bye for the playoffs.

The Minnesota Lynx just capped off their second 3-0 week in a row. They are now tied with the Connecticut Sun for the fifth best record in the league. For reference, this is the first week in which we have been able to say their ranking in terms of "best in the league" rather than "worst in the league."

Maya Moore has been close to unstoppable this week, putting up 23, 32, and 24 points. In addition, giving Cecilia Zandalasini more minutes proved to be a great decision as the 22-year-old has been giving them an incredibly consistent seven points a game. 

The Lynx started off the week with a blowout win over the struggling Aces. Sylvia Fowles excellent defense on A'ja Wilson was crucial, holding the incredibly talented rookie to just 10 points. On Tuesday, Fowles and Moore combined for 60 points as they shocked the Seattle Storm with a smashing 12-point victory. Minnesota finished out the week with an easy win over the Atlanta Dream. Despite a lackadaisical first half, the Lynx had an explosive third quarter that left them leading by 21 points.

Now that the Lynx have clambered back up into the playoff picture, a new goal is in sight. Their old rival, the Sparks, are tied with the Seattle Storm for the second seed. If the Lynx, who sit just a game and a half back, can overtake these teams, they will earn an immensely valuable double-bye for the playoffs.

Minnesota has a packed schedule heading into the All-Star break, starting with four games this week.

Sunday, July 1st vs. the Dallas Wings

The Wings have a very unhappy history playing against the Lynx. Not once since their relocation to Dallas have the Wings defeated Minnesota. The two teams have met twice this season, and both times the Lynx won by an easy eight points.

These matchups have boiled down to an epic matchup between Fowles and the talented Liz Cambage. A powerhouse in the paint, Cambage has been a big reason Dallas is in the top half of the league in defensive rating and fourth in rebounding. However, Fowles one step ahead. Her presence inside turns an area that is usually the Wings' greatest advantage into a weakness. 

To pick up yet another win against Dallas, the Lynx will need Fowles to do what she does best: defend the rim and grab rebounds. If they really want to seal the deal, Moore should match or outscore Skyler Diggins-Smith. 

Tuesday, July 3rd vs. the Indiana Fever

The Fever have played 16 games this season and have been defeated in all except one. Their only win came in a strange blowout victory over the Chicago Sky, in which rookies Kelsey Mitchell and Victoria Vivians combined for 40 points. This kind of performance is unlikely to happen again, especially against the Lynx, who currently have the second-best defensive rating in the league. 

In theory, this game should be an easy win for Minnesota. However, the Lynx must not fall into that trap of arrogance. The Fever are desperate for a victory, and basketball is never predictable. 

Thursday, July 5th vs. the Los Angeles Sparks

Some people say there are no big games, and mathematically speaking, they're right. No one game is worth more than another when it comes down to the record. So it really shouldn't matter that the Lynx lost to the Sparks in their two previous matchups this season, instead of, say, the Wings. 

But it does. 

This matchup is the biggest game this week because it's is the next chapter in the thrilling saga that is Lynx v. Sparks. It's a book that WNBA fans just can't put down, because nearly ever matchup is the ideal basketball game: down to the buzzer, dramatic, and chock full of magnificent plays. It feels like the Finals have come early. Minnesota has come back from their slow start, but in order to really look like a contender, they need to show up for this game. A victory versus their perennial rival would be the icing on the cake for the Lynx's resurgence. 

Saturday, July 7th vs. the Chicago Sky

 The Lynx's matchup against the Sky should be significantly easier than Thursday's game. However, Chicago is on a three-game win streak that included a win over the first-seed Phoenix Mercury. During this time, rookies Diamond DeShields and Gabby Williams have stepped up to the plate big time. However, the Sky's defense remains last in the league while leading the WNBA in turnovers, which isn't unexpected for a team depending so heavily upon two rookies. 

In order to pick up a win, the Lynx have to make sure the Sky's youth is a disadvantage. Their quickness and athleticism is something that Minnesota simply cannot match, so the Lynx must play slow correct basketball. This means minimizing turnovers- their Achilles heel this year- in order to prevent Chicago from getting out and running. And while the Lynx are a very strong offensive team, it will be to their advantage to slow the game down and pick the Sky apart on the defensive end.

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