Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve prefers to see the positives when looking at her team’s final six regular-season games. To her, quality competition is good for a team prepping for a playoff run.
That’s a good attitude, and a necessary one for the Lynx. In their final six games, the Lynx will play Seattle — which has won five of six games — three times, starting with Saturday’s game at Target Center. The Lynx will face Los Angeles twice, once at home, with first place in the Western Conference likely at stake. Every game against playoff-caliber opposition.
The finale? The Lynx will host Chicago, the top team in the East.
Reeve may be an optimist. But she’s also a realist. And she knows the standings could look a lot different a couple of weeks.
“In the end, the opponents will probably be the same,” Reeve said Friday. “It’s just a matter of what position you’re in.’’
Heading into this weekend’s games, the Lynx (21-7) have a one-game lead over Los Angeles (20-8). Phoenix (14-13) and Seattle (15-14) were in a virtual tie for third place. That group of four is almost certain to make up the Western Conference playoff field. It’s just a matter of the matchups.
So it figures to be playoff-style basketball before the playoffs actually begin. And, for the Lynx, that starts with Seattle; playing a team three times in four games tends to start feeling like a playoff series anyway.
“Brian Agler is a great coach,” Seimone Augustus said of the Seattle coach, whose team plays sticky defense and tries to slow the tempo. “His team is a grind-it-out type team. … We know the challenges they present.”
And that’s just the beginning.
The Lynx host Los Angeles on Wednesday before playing twice in Seattle, on Sept. 7 and 10. Next the Lynx will play at Los Angeles on Sept. 12 — in a game that could decide home court advantage in the West — before returning home to play Chicago.
“I think it’s really good for us,” Reeve said. “I don’t know if you can get more ready for the playoffs, in terms of having hard games. And you have to play well. But, if you’re playing well in those games, it gives you a nice springboard into the playoffs. ‘’
On the other hand, a stumble or two could drop the Lynx from first to second place, which could mean they would not have the home-court edge for the conference finals. In addition to two games with the Lynx, Los Angeles has games at San Antonio, at Atlanta, at Tulsa and vs. Phoenix.
Even more interesting is what the first-round matchups will be. With third and fourth place still in flux, just about every one of the Lynx’s final games will have an impact on playoff position.
“I kind of feel like it’s staged,” Augustus said of the final two weeks, which includes multiple games against Seattle and L.A. “Like it’s set up in some kind of way, with the way the positioning is going. But it makes for good playoff-style basketball. We’ll have to see how it works out. We’re looking forward, not back.’’