As with any team hovering around .500 as the regular season rounds the final turn, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve has seen the good, sensed the potential and witnessed the disappointment with hers.
All as recently as Tuesday.
In a 10-point loss in Los Angeles, the Lynx started out playing good defense but couldn’t make shots. Then they stopped playing defense and fell behind by 30 in the third quarter before a lineup primarily of Odyssey Sims, Damiris Dantas, Lexie Brown, Temi Fagbenle and Napheesa Collier used a 29-6 run to pull within seven with 1:23 left to play.
But they lost for the third straight time and for the fourth time in five games. The Lynx (13-15) are in eighth place in the WNBA — the league’s final playoff spot — with six games to go. They are 3½ games ahead of a three-team logjam in ninth — one that includes Thursday’s opponent Dallas — and just two games out of sixth place, which would give Minnesota a first-round home playoff game.
Their upcoming four-game homestand includes two games against teams behind the Lynx (Dallas and Indiana) and two games against teams ahead of them (Las Vegas and Chicago).
Reeve is realistic about this season.
“We beat Connecticut pretty handily [at home],” she said. “We won in Connecticut, the only team that’s done that. We’ve had games where you can feel where we can be with some consistency. But there’s also a flip side to that. Who are we? Somewhere in the middle, probably. We’re a team capable of being difficult to play against. We know we’re not a top team, not a top-four team. But there is still time for us to be a good basketball team.”
It’s time to show it. There are six games left in the regular season. The first four of those are at home, Minnesota’s longest homestand of the season.
“We’re clearly a playoff team,” Reeve said. “But it’s not about that. It’s about four of six at home. We’ve cleared that tough stretch. It won’t be easy, coming off that trip and playing [Thursday]. But this four-game stretch is it. We have to finish this off in a flurry.”
That tough stretch included eight games in 17 days, with six of those on the road. Now the Lynx are home but still in flux. Tuesday, for the first time in her career, Seimone Augustus didn’t start. Reeve said that decision was Augustus’ idea.
“I could see in the look in her eye, how she was feeling, where her knee was, what she’s able to do,” said Reeve of Augustus, who has been back just seven games after having surgery on her right knee May 30. “She felt she could better help us in a different role. She felt better about that. I didn’t necessarily agree with that. But, if that’s what she wanted to do, we’d do it.”
It’s not a permanent decision, Reeve said. But Augustus is experiencing pain in the knee. As she has done in past years, she was going to have the knee drained upon the team’s return from Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Against the Sparks, Reeve started Stephanie Talbot at guard in place of Augustus. Reeve said she’s not sure who will get the start against Dallas.
But she knows the team needs to seize the opportunity the schedule is providing. Given the turnover that affected the roster after last season, and the injuries that have hit Augustus, Karima Christmas-Kelly and Jessica Shepard, the fact that the Lynx appear headed to the playoffs for a ninth straight season is a positive.
“I don’t have an ounce of disappointment in this team,’’ Reeve said.
But: “Now it’s, ‘Win your home games,’ ” Reeve said. “It’s going to be defining, how well we play, going into the playoffs.”