Women's baskeball: Lynx playing defense at rare pace

The Minnesota Lynx are playing defense at a clip not seen in the past decade, at least when it comes to points per game.

The Minnesota Lynx are playing defense at a clip not seen in the past decade, at least when it comes to points per game.

Through 10 games, the Lynx (8-2) have allowed an average of 67.8 points per game, far and away the best mark in the WNBA. If Minnesota maintains that average for the rest of the season, it would be the league's best since 2005.

"We're doing well, there's no question about it," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.

But Reeve also said Minnesota doesn't use points per game as its primary indicator of defensive success. That, she noted, can be affected by pace of play. The Lynx prefer to look at defensive field-goal percentage and defensive efficiency.

Minnesota sits atop the league in both of those categories, too. The Lynx are holding opponents to 39 percent shooting, 30 percent from three-point range. That's better than the team defense during championship campaigns in 2011 and 2013.


"We want to maintain that," Reeve said. "During the year, for 10 games, we've been really solid."

And when they haven't been, it has cost them.

In the Lynx's two losses, they've given up an average of 83.5 points. In their victories, it's 63.9 points a game.

The Lynx have held each of their past two opponents below 60 points, a benchmark they've attained four times this season.

Forward Rebekkah Brunson said those types of performances fuel the team.

"It feels good," she said. "We get to celebrate everybody's victories, we feel connected, we feel like everybody's doing it together as a group.

That's going to fuel everything else.

"When you get a stop, then you get to go do the fun things, the things that you want to do on the offensive end."


Reeve said the Lynx have a goal to sport the best offense and best defense in the WNBA. In terms of points per 100 possessions, the Lynx rank first defensively (91.7) and third offensively (104).

"Everybody likes to talk about our offense, and offense is a lot of fun, but doing the dirty work, the group that's been here knows that's how we've gotten where we wanted to go," Reeve said. "You can have great offense and not compete for a championship, and our group knows that."

Reeve said last year the Lynx were a solid but not great defensive team. That was reflected in the numbers. Minnesota ranked sixth out of the league's 12 teams in points allowed per 100 possessions (100.9).

This year, the Lynx have the advantage of a healthy Brunson, who played in only 11 regular-season games in 2014 as she battled through a knee injury.

Brunson hasn't missed a game this season and leads the Lynx with 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game.

"We had some real challenges last year with our matchups in the post," Reeve said. "This year, I'm just really, really pleased with our whole post group ... whether it's denying reversal passes, denying the post, it's contagious what (Brunson) does. Then, obviously, getting rebounds at the clip that she's getting rebounds, that's been a shot in the arm for us."

The Lynx's defense has been a shot in the arm for the entire team, as Minnesota sits atop the Western Conference just 10 games into a season it hopes ends with a third title in five years.

"We want to be able to get it done with the defense," Brunson said. "We want to stop what they're trying to do, and we know we'll be successful if we do that."

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