With a 10-day break before the Lynx begin the WNBA playoffs, coach Cheryl Reeve told her team to take the next three days off. She isn’t planning to do the same.
The Lynx ended the regular season Saturday by defeating Atlanta 95-87, setting a franchise record with their 28th victory of the season. They had already earned the top seed for the WNBA playoffs, sending them directly into the semifinals — which do not begin until Sept. 28. As her players rest and recharge, Reeve will sweat the details, trying to use the long layoff to the best possible effect.
Sylvia Fowles sent the Lynx into the break on a strong note with a season-high 30 points, helping them outlast the persistent, confounding Dream at Target Center before a crowd announced at 11,663. Though they have won 13 of their past 15 games, Reeve — ever the perfectionist — saw some facets of their game she wants to clean up before her team opens its WNBA title defense.
“We’ll do some staff meetings, and I’ve got a lot of things swirling in my head,” said Reeve, who will spend Sunday with family before getting back to work. “It will be a great deal of stress. I’m a preparer, and so I’ll probably stress for two of those three [off days].
“I just want to be prepared. I don’t want to waste a minute together. It’s new, these 10 days off; we have a lot of planning to do, and we’ll leave no stone unturned. I just want to be in the best position we can be when we come out of this.”
The WNBA’s regular season ends Sunday, when playoff seedings will be finalized. The playoffs begin Wednesday with two first-round games. The winners advance to a pair of second-round games Saturday; those victors will meet the Lynx and Los Angeles in the best-of-five semifinals.
Saturday, Reeve was unhappy with the defense — and occasionally with Fowles — even though she was delighted to see her team set the franchise record for victories. She joked that she spent most of the game yelling at Fowles, who was called for her third foul with 2:11 left in the first quarter.
Fowles played only 7:49 of the first half. She scored 17 of her points in the second half and, for the game, made nine of 11 shots and 12 of 18 free throws. Forward Natasha Howard also had a solid game starting in place of veteran Rebekkah Brunson, who was held out to rest; Howard had 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
The Dream shot 48.5 percent, a number that made Reeve grimace. But the Lynx showed their mettle when Atlanta — which trailed by as many as 16 in the first half — cut the Lynx lead to 77-74 in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter. The Lynx forced six turnovers and regained control to finish the regular season with a 15-2 record at home.
“We’re not playing for 10 days; give it everything you’ve got, and work really hard,” said guard Lindsay Whalen, who had eight points and three assists. “Having that good feeling going into the playoffs, that was a big key for us.”
In the coming days, Reeve plans to continue refining the playbook, along with everything else.
“It will be busy,” she said. “That’s for sure.”