- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Admittedly, the opening game of the WNBA Finals surprised people who figured the Indiana Fever -- minus Katie Douglas -- didn't have much chance to beat defending champion Minnesota.
That assumption really, really bugged Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve -- even before it was proven wrong by the Fever's 76-70 victory Sunday at Target Center.
"I've talked lately about the external viewpoints; I just think it's absurd," Reeve said of the notion that the Fever wouldn't challenge the Lynx. "It just means you don't know enough about our league when you go around saying things like that. I've been very disappointed with that kind of talk. I do appreciate the confidence in our team, but I don't think people understand the difficulty in beating teams [like Indiana]."
OK, that's understandable for a coach to say, and we get what she means. But let's face it: Even most folks who really do know the WNBA had doubts about whether Indiana could play a second consecutive game so well without Douglas.
She suffered a sprained left ankle early in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals at Connecticut on Oct. 11, and is not expected back in this series until possibly Friday's game in Indianapolis. But even that is just a guess, as the Fever must wait to see how her ankle responds.
The Fever defied all the negative predictions Sunday, while the Lynx kind of fizzled out in the fourth quarter instead of taking over.
Of course, Minnesota can't afford to go into an 0-2 hole in the best-of-five series. So what has to be different Wednesday (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET) for the Lynx in Game 2?
In some ways, everything. In other ways, not much.
By everything, we mean the Lynx have to be themselves, rather than the sometimes-passive group that didn't defend well or execute the way it wanted offensively on Sunday.
But by not much, we mean the Lynx certainly don't have to write a new script for how to win. After all, Minnesota was 27-7 in the regular season, including two victories over the Fever.
"We felt like we were not really ourselves, not to take anything away from Indiana," Reeve said of the Lynx's Game 1 performance, when they shot 39.1 percent from the field, including 5-of-18 from behind the arc. "I don't know if Indiana is getting enough credit for their offense through the playoffs. They're really getting it done on both sides of the ball.
"What they've done offensively this year -- versus in years past -- is they're less of a grind-it-out offense. They share the ball well and move well."
But the Lynx, when they're on, are the best offensive team in the league. That's why Indiana coach Lin Dunn said she didn't expect there to be any huge adjustments made by either team for Game 2.
"I thought we did a really good job of matching their runs," Dunn said. "There was a time in the fourth quarter where we looked a little fatigued, but I was able to quickly give people a little bit of a rest. Then down the stretch, that really helped us.
"What they want to do is get a few more defensive stops and knock down a couple more shots. I don't think they'll make a lot of changes, they'll just try to play a little bit better."
There were times Sunday when Minnesota went with a little smaller lineup that uses the 6-foot Maya Moore at the power forward position. That configuration has worked most of the time this season when the Lynx have used it. It didn't as well Sunday, but Reeve isn't concerned that it won't Wednesday.
"I definitely think we can go big or small and be successful," she said. "In that particular game, when you look back on it, you say, 'We were better off going big.' But most of the times we've played Maya at the 4, we've been on the plus side.
"We were trying to get her some looks, get her going more, because she was struggling."
Moore finished the game 4-of-14 from the field for 14 points. Rebekkah Brunson was 5-of-12 (10 points) and Lindsay Whalen 4-of-12 (12 points). Seimone Augustus led the Lynx with 23 points, but she wasn't sharp in the decisive fourth quarter, either.
The Lynx have to be a more cohesive offensive unit, and they have to try to muscle up more inside on Tamika Catchings (20 points, six rebounds) and Erlana Larkins (16 points, 15 rebounds).
"We do what we've done all season," Whalen said. "After a tough game, you really analyze the video and work as hard as you can in practice to fix things. It's a matter of going out there and doing it."
17dBonnie D. Ford