With the Lynx chasing history, it’s important that head coach Cheryl Reeve keeps the true goal in sight: winning a WNBA title.
On Thursday night, the Minnesota Lynx came from behind and beat the Atlanta Dream by a final of 69-54. The victory made history as the Lynx are the first WNBA team to have 20 wins or more in seven consecutive seasons. It puts Minnesota is very exclusive company and has people already talking that this could be the best WNBA team ever assembled.
Currently, the 2014 Phoenix Mercury have the record for most wins in a single season, finishing at 29-5 and going on to win the WNBA Finals. There is some thinking that the Lynx could tie or exceed that mark this year. Only a handful of the teams they will face are serious playoff contenders with most either sporting losing records or entering the postseason with no real chance of winning a title.
Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve has already said she has no plans to rest her starters, which some have taken to mean that they plan to keep their foot on the pedal. Of course there is home court and seeding to consider, but with a playoff spot already clinched, the main reason to continue to play her starters would be if the Lynx plan to try to be the best WNBA team ever.
And that could be a huge mistake.
Just ask the Golden State Warriors.
During the 2015-16 NBA season, the Golden State Warriors could not be beat. Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were firing on all cylinders and the Warriors began the season going 24-0. As the season progressed and Golden State continued to dominate, the question began to be asked: can the Warriors best the record for wins set in a single season by the legendary 1995-96 Chicago Bulls?
That Bulls team went 72-10 and it was thought that the record would never fall. But with the Warriors playing so well, it seemed that it could actually happen. So when Golden State clinched a playoff spot in late February, the team didn’t rest their starters, instead deciding to chase history.
WHAT 👏 A 👏 NIGHT 👏
Take a look at the top moments from last night's victory over the Atlanta Dream! pic.twitter.com/rajhVEKHWc
— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) August 4, 2017
The Warriors did eventually break the record, finishing the 2015-16 season with 73 wins and just nine losses. But no one really remembers that. Instead, what fans remember is that the Warriors eventually lost in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers despite being up 3-1 in the best of seven series.
Would the Warriors have won if they rested players instead of chasing the record? Would they have been in a better mental state and fresher on the court if they hadn’t been playing so hard? Would they then have been able to get that final win to become back-to-back champions?
We’ll unfortunately never know.
But it is something Reeve should really be thinking about as the Lynx go about finishing out the 2017 season.
Sure, breaking the Mercury’s record of 29 wins would be great and would put the Lynx at the heart of the conversation for best WNBA team ever. But this year has been all about winning a championship and avenging last year’s heartbreaking Game 5 loss to the Los Angeles Sparks. That is what should be the main motivation for the Lynx and nothing else.
Because if Minnesota wins 30 games this year but fails to win a WNBA title, most will consider the season a colossal waste of time despite what they may say outwardly.
Keep the focus on the playoffs and win a WNBA championship and the Minnesota Lynx will become one of the greatest teams ever assembled. Win 30 games but lose in the Finals, they will be mentioned in the same sentence as those 2015-16 Warriors and the 2007 New England Patriots.
And no one wants that.