When the playoff Lynx score, they win. Every time.
MINNEAPOLIS — There were a lot of reasons for the Minnesota Lynx to be concerned about the Mystics' offense heading into WNBA semifinal series.
Washington averaged the most three-point attempts in the WNBA this season, and the Mystics start three players who stand 6-foot-4 or taller, including all-world forward Elena Delle Donne.
Washington averaged 84 points over its first two playoff games. In its quarterfinal win over New York, sharpshooter Kristi Toliver drained a playoff-record nine three-pointers.
Yes, the Mystics are dynamic and explosive.
Yet, on the eve of the best-of-5 series with Washington, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said the key to the series didn't rest with Washington's ability to score, but with Minnesota's.
"The No. 1 key is to put the ball in the hole, I think," Reeve said. "I think if we do that well, we're going to have success."
Reeve knows her team all too well. The Lynx shot 59 percent from the field in their 101-81 victory over Washington in Game 1 on Tuesday, Sept. 12. At one point, Minnesota made 13 straight field goals and nine straight threes — both WNBA playoff records. The 101 points tied for the franchise's third-best playoff scoring performance.
"If they shoot like that the rest of the series, it'll be a quick series," Washington coach Mike Thibault said.
When the playoff Lynx shoot well and score, they're unbeatable.
Such has been the story of this team's dynasty. Minnesota has won three championships since 2011. Its postseason success is nearly unprecedented, and while defense has always been the Lynx's calling card, scoring is often what separates Minnesota's championship runs from its near misses.
Since 2011, the Lynx are 23-0 in playoff games when they score at least 80 points, 12-13 when they don't.
The defense will always be there for the Lynx — their toughness, commitment and coaching guarantees that. But points can be difficult to come by in the playoffs. That's why Reeve spent so much time last week in practice trying to make her offense uncomfortable, to emulate what it would see against playoff defenses.
"You're not going to get your first option, second option, third option," Reeve said. "How do you get through that? How do you just keep playing and still get the percentage shot that you want, the people that you want, etc.? It's more of that. At this point it's not pretty offense, it's not as you scripted it, and you've got to understand how to deviate, how to stay aggressive. Don't just, quote, 'Run the play.' "
Reeve's players picked up what the coach put down, to the point where Washington, which locked down each of its first two playoff opponents, had no answer for Minnesota's offensive prowess.
"I'm not sure (the Lynx) even knew we were out there for 15 minutes," Thibault said.
But one strong offensive performance does not a title run make. If the Lynx want to capture their fourth title in seven years, they have to keep finding ways to score, keep their firepower blasting on all cylinders, from Seimone Augustus to Sylvia Fowles to Maya Moore.
"That's always my worry," Reeve said this week, "to make sure we're getting consistent offense and getting a variety of offense."
It's the difference between winning or losing championships.