Minnesota Lynx pile up post-season awards after earning 10th straight WNBA playoff appearance

Napheesa Collier #24 of the Minnesota Lynx shoots the ball after a swat from Nneka Ogwumike #30 of the Los Angeles Sparks during the first half of a game at Feld Entertainment Center on August 09, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. ((Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images))

The Minnesota Lynx have made the best of a tough situation with the WNBA bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So much so, that they’re getting ready for the WNBA Playoffs and reeling in awards from the media in the process. On Tuesday, Cheryl Reeve was named the AP Coach of the Year, point guard Crystal Dangerfield was named the AP Rookie of the Year and Napheesa Collier was named Second-Team All WNBA.

In the most unusual of circumstances, playing in a bubble amid a global health pandemic, the Lynx finished the regular season 14-8 and earned their 10th straight playoff appearance. They have a bye and play Thursday night, while Connecticut faces Chicago and Washington faces Phoenix Tuesday night in elimination games.

“I am really excited we got that. Having the time off is awesome, and it gives Syl a chance to get even more rest, which is amazing. I’m really happy for us, and happy that we put ourselves in this position,” Collier said. “We’ve played well this season, we did this, we got here. So I’m glad that we get to reap the benefits of that now.”

They did it largely without star center Sylvia Fowles, who played in just seven games and has been dealing with a calf injury. She's averaging 16.1 points and nine rebounds when she is on the court.

Collier started all 22 regular season games, led the Lynx with 34.2 minutes per game and scored 16.1 points while averaging nine rebounds per game. She also averaged 3.3 assists and shot better than 52 percent from the field.

Dangerfield might be the surprise of the season. The second round pick has started 19 of 21 games, played 30 minutes per game and is averaging 16.2 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the field, including 33.3 percent from the perimeter. She’s also averaging 3.6 assists per game and is the favorite to win WNBA Rookie of the Year.

She was named the WNBA Rookie of the Month for the second time on Tuesday.

“The award doesn’t come if you don’t win games. Our team did a great job. This award is just as much theirs as it is mine. When I was on the floor, that’s all I was worried about was trying to win games,” Dangerfield said.

There’s still work to do, but the Lynx took Monday night to celebrate their regular season and earning a 10th straight playoff appearance. They held a team dinner, then spent the night in Florida on a catamaran. They had drop-in appearance from those close to the team on Zoom, watched a highlight reel and Reeve heard from former Lynx star Lindsay Whalen.

“It’s something that we’ve enjoyed doing. It’s a celebration of your regular season, and it’s kind of focusing on what lies ahead. We got a chance to do that. The players, the team enjoyed the heck out of it and they deserve every second of it,” Reeve said.

They’ve made the most of a tough situation, and the team says it started before most of them even got a chance to meet. They held Zoom sessions to both work and enjoy each other’s company, then really invested in each other when they worked out together before going to Florida.

“We embraced it as much as we can, our team chemistry has been good from the beginning and you can see it translate on the floor,” Collier said

“This group just keeps playing and they’ve got a relentless way about them. I do believe it’s because of how they feel about each other,” Reeve said.

Now, they wait and watch to see who they face Thursday in an elimination game.