LYNX’S TWO CRITICAL WINS AHEAD OF FLYERS’ CHRISTMAS CLASH
Perth Lynx coach Ryan Petrik couldn’t have been happier with the way his team bounced back with wins against Adelaide Lightning and Sydney Flames and knows if their defence continues to be strong, it’s only going to help their offensive weapons.
After the Lynx produced a tremendous effort at Bendat Basketball Centre back on December 3 to hand the Melbourne Boomers their first defeat of the WNBL season by 17 points, that same Melbourne team responded four days later with their own 31-point win.
While that game was ugly with the final scoreline, the reality was it only blew out in the fourth quarter and was still a single digit ball game by three quarter-time, and Petrik knew he couldn’t afford to run his starters into the ground.
With two more games to come over the next six days, Petrik knew the Lynx had to get two wins from those two match ups before being able to rest up with 10 days before this coming Saturday afternoon’s match up with the Southside Flyers back at Bendat Basketball Centre.
Whatever the plan was, it certainly worked because the Lynx beat the Lightning on the Sunday following the Thursday loss to Melbourne in what was a thrilling finish before then backing up emphatically to the Flames last Wednesday night.
Not wanting to lay an egg
Perth put in a dominant performance to beat Sydney 98-58 and with the biggest crowd of the season on hand so far at Bendat Basketball Centre, including players from the female Fremantle Dockers, Western Force, West Coast Eagles, Perth Scorchers, Perth Wheelcats, Hockey Australia, WA Institute of Sport and Perth Glory teams to spur them on, Petrik knew it was a big occasion on a number of fronts.
“From a coaching staff we certainly knew it was a big game,” Petrik said.
“It was on ESPN so it’s the nationally televised game, it’s against Sydney, it’s a top four fight and our biggest crowd of the season. But you can’t let that affect your players.
“Naturally they will have an idea that it felt like a big game, but you can’t make a big deal about it to them. It’s not like you can ask them to please not lay an egg tonight, and luckily we didn’t.”
Getting those two important wins
When the previous Sunday’s game in Melbourne against the Boomers was slipping away from the Lynx in the fourth quarter, Petrik turned his eyes to their next two games three days later in Adelaide and three days after that back home to the Flames.
Keeping some energy in the tank certainly worked with a strong comeback performance to beat the Lightning and then a dominant showing from start to finish at both ends of the floor against Sydney.
“It was a very good performance. That fourth quarter against Melbourne when we were down at three quarter-time, we just didn’t have a good night at all and yanked our first five pretty quickly in that fourth quarter when the game felt out of reach,” Petrik said.
“It might have looked like quitting that game early, but we knew we had to get Adelaide and we had to get this game. We were happy to lose the battle to win the war so to speak and to make sure we had enough energy for this game.”
Strong all-round performance
Petrik and his coaching staff knew that his players didn’t need to worry about leaving anything in the tank last Wednesday night in the home game to Sydney with 10 games until playing again also at home to the Flyers.
The end result was a tremendous performance where not only did the Lynx put up 98 points on 52.2 field goal shooting along with knocking down 16/32 of their three-point attempts, but they also were brilliant defensively.
On top of that, Petrik got the chance to give some of his players deeper on the bench some minutes late in the game too, and for a very different reason than in Melbourne.
“We had to bait them with the 10 days in between games but we just told them to keep playing hard, and whatever comes of it comes of it,” he said.
“We just didn’t want to lay down and the Melbourne game was different because we had to save our energy for the next two games.
“Whereas there was nothing after this one and we did still bring our starters out pretty early to bring their minutes down, but it was a chance for those people on the end of the bench to show us why they deserve to play.
“We’re not interested in what they say, we’re interested in their actions and their actions spoke loudly in the fourth.”
Defensive performance equally impressive
As good as Perth’s offence was against Sydney, the defence was even more impressive as the Lynx held the Flames to the 58 points on 24.3 per cent field goal shooting along with forcing them into 20 turnovers.
That ended up helping the Lynx offence too and to have a team clicking at both ends of the floor is certainly the dream of every coach.
“The defence was elite in that game and part of it is sometimes about you catching a team that just doesn’t have a good night, like us against Melbourne last week,” Petrik said.
“So that does help but our players were just locked in and we’ve not got our scouts perfect this season, but that’s as close as we’ve gone to getting it right at the defensive end, and then that helps our offence.
“As coaches you hate the fact that the two ends are linked, but they are. When your offence is on and you’re making shots, you naturally play a little harder defensively. That shouldn’t happen but it’s just always the way it has been. So if you have both ends working suddenly you have a 40-point game.”
Faith in three-point shooting
The Lynx continue to be a heavily focused three-point shooting team and that’s the way the squad was put together. It was all about having an inside presence of Emily Potter, the playmaking of Aari McDonald and the all-round brilliance of Anneli Maley.
But then to have a whole bevy of shooters filling out the rest of the team surrounding that trio, and in that win over the Flames they hit 16 threes as a team with Amy Atwell going 6/13, Alex Ciabattoni 2/3, McDonald 2/3, Mackenzie Clinch Hoycard 3/5 and Miela Goodchild 2/5.
Once Petrik and his coaching staff decided on how they wanted the team to play and the squad they put together, they knew they would back in that playing style no matter the hits they take on bad shooting nights, and bouquets they receive after the good ones.
“We don’t listen to outside noise because everyone loves it when we’re shooting well, and everyone hates it when we’re missing,” Petrik said.
“Unfortunately as a coaching staff, we can’t pick and choose, and we have to keep backing it in and we don’t want players questioning if it’s a good shot or not.
“We’ll certainly show them a lot of film of the shots we don’t like, but we want to make misses completely irrelevant and want them to just worry about taking the right shots. The heavily contested threes early clock, sure we have to clean those up but when we’re on, it’s a really fun way of playing.”
One new addition to the Lynx coaching staff this season has been former Perth Wildcats, South East Melbourne Phoenix and Brisbane Bullets import, and NBL1 West two-time MVP Devondrick Walker.
He has played under Petrik at the Rockingham Flames the past two seasons and it’s a natural fit for them to be working together in the WNBL, and Petrik can’t speak more highly of the skills work he did – especially last week with Maley and Atwell.
“That’s all Devondrick Walker, it’s really simple. He is the best skills coach in the country,” he said.
“He spent the last couple of days leading into that game with Amy and Anneli working on their three-point shot because if we can space the floor a bit, who’s going to guard Aari.
“Aari might have had a quieter game in this one, but if they want to put heavier attention on her, and Maley and Atwell can make their threes, where will you help from? All the credit in the world for that goes to Devondrick Walker.”
Petrik has worked with some remarkably talented, gifted and smart players throughout his coaching career and former Lynx pair Katie Ebzery and Sami Whitcomb spring to mind, but he’s never worked with anybody quite like Walker.
“Everyone from the outside knows that he’s a hell of a player, but I’ve never been around a smarter player,” Petrik said.
“Katie Ebzery was right up there, but Devondrick Walker is nuclear in terms of how his brain operates, it’s the smartest brain I’ve ever been around.
“The little nuances he can teach the players knock us out of the water so he’s been fantastic so he’s been fantastic for their individual skill development.”