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Lynx looking to leave Game 3 behind

By Roman Augustoviz, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Fever practiced Saturday, the day before Game 4 of the WNBA Finals.

The Minnesota Lynx? They partied.

After their mandatory 30-minute appearance for media interviews, the Lynx had a birthday party for center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who turned 42. Coach Cheryl Reeve normally didn’t require her players to practice the day before a game this season, preferring they rest. So even on the brink of elimination, down 2-1 in the best-of-five series, the Lynx followed their routine.

Lynx players did watch video of their 76-59 drubbing by Indiana on Friday. The visitors at Bankers Life Fieldhouse had about as much of winning that game as the Christians had of escaping the lions in the Coliseum. Indiana led by a playoffs-record 37 points late in the third quarter.

“That should never happen in the WNBA Finals. Ever,” Reeve said.

Guard Shavonte Zellous of the Fever torched the Lynx for 30 points. Her previous high was 16 in Game 2. She averaged 7.5 points during the regular season. On Saturday, when the Lynx walked into the Fever’s practice gym for their interviews — after the Fever’s media session — Zellous walked over to Reeve and gave her a prolonged hug. Zellous was a player and Reeve an assistant with Detroit in 2008.

Reeve probably needed the hug. She was exceptionally brief and guarded Friday in her postgame comments. What happened?

“I don’t have an answer,” Reeve said.

How can the Lynx win Sunday?

“Score more points than them,” the third-year head coach said.

Are you upset?

“Not upset. Ready to move on,” Reeve said.

As is the Fever, despite being down to nine healthy players. Katie Douglas, its second-leading scorer, was getting treatment for a sprained left ankle Saturday and not at practice. Indiana coach Lin Dunn said Douglas is improving. But she has not played in the Finals yet, and unless there is a Game 5 on Wednesday at Target Center, probably won’t.

Backup guard Jeanette Pohlen, meanwhile, is definitely out. She has a torn ACL in her left knee. Pohlen, who was injured in Game 2, will have offseason surgery. Scott Agness, the Fever’s equipment manager, filled in  so Indiana could play five-on-five in practice.

“Them being down two players has nothing to do with anything,” Lynx forward Rebekkah Brunson said. “They have been playing well without them.”

Especially Zellous. Near the end of Indiana’s practice, she was fooling around and made a half-court shot. Her shooting touch from the night before — when she was 10 of 17 from the field — was still there.

“Anytime you lay an egg in the WNBA Finals, it doesn’t feel very good,” Reeve said. “At the same time, we understand that the nice thing is, it is not over.”

It will be over, though, if the Fever wins Sunday. To prevent that from happening, the Lynx have to do these things, in addition to stopping Zellous.

— Start better. They trailed 19-12 late in the first quarter in Game 3.

— Keep Erlana Larkins off the boards. The Fever center had 15 rebounds in both Games 1 and 3. Teammate Tamika Catchings said every time Larkins has a monster game on the boards, the Fever wins.

— Move the ball around. The Lynx had six assists Friday.

“There wasn’t any (passing). We didn’t work their defense very hard,” Reeve said.

— Stop Indiana’s dribble penetration.

“That was the key to their offensive attack,” Reeve said. She said her players were unable to guard the Fever one-on-one.

— Improve their shooting. The Lynx shot 38.5 percent, and it was that high only because of a strong fourth quarter.

“We don’t want to remember any of (Friday) night,” Lynx guard Seimone Augustus said. “Nothing went our way (Friday) night. What we do want to bottle up is the energy and intensity that the second group, the bench players, came in and played with.”

Lynx reserves outscored Zellous and four Indiana bench players 21-6 in the fourth quarter. But Saturday afternoon was a time for the Lynx to forget all that — like Augustus said — and laugh a little at the party for Mama Taj. After that, the Lynx’s attention turned to Game 4.

“It is kind of a unique situation, being the underdog,” said Reeve, whose team had the best regular-season record in the WNBA at 27-7. “We will see how we handle that. We just want to play well. There is no magical adjustment.”

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