It’s not as if their mini-slump has put the Lynx’s season in any genuine peril. To a group not used to losing, however, two defeats in the past three games have inflicted an unfamiliar sting.
The Lynx will be seeking a salve Wednesday at Seattle, when they face a team with much bigger problems than theirs. At 21-4, the Lynx remain the WNBA’s top team, holding a three-game lead over Los Angeles with nine games left in the regular season. But last week’s losses at Indiana and against the Sparks marked the first time this season the Lynx finished a week with more losses than victories — and prompted some fine-tuning before they hit the road.
Point guard Renee Montgomery, who is expected to start her fourth game in place of the injured Lindsay Whalen, said the Lynx take every loss hard and are eager to get back on course. The team needs to make only minor adjustments to do that, she said, a point echoed by coach Cheryl Reeve.
“We know what happened in the L.A. game,” Reeve said, referring to a 70-64 home loss on Friday that turned on a wretched third quarter. “We know what we didn’t get done, and we just have to get better. This is a group that always bounces back.
“We’re not unhappy. We’re a good team. We do some good things, but there are some places we can improve. And that’s really what we looked at in those two [losses]. In order for us to be the best we can be, we need to use those two games and improve.”
Whalen has missed three games because of a broken bone in her left hand and is expected to be out until early September. Reeve said an 84-82 loss at Indiana on Aug. 6 and the defeat by the Sparks can’t be blamed solely on her absence.
Center Sylvia Fowles got into early foul trouble against the Fever, playing less than 20 minutes and scoring a season-low six points. Against Los Angeles, the Lynx didn’t match the Sparks’ muscular play until the fourth quarter. They scored only eight points in the third, their lowest output in any quarter this season, and fell behind by 15 before charging back in the final 10 minutes.
The Lynx got back into that game with more robust defense. They still had trouble scoring, a problem that Fowles and Reeve blamed on an inert offense. Against Seattle, Reeve wants to see better play-calling and decisionmaking, a more disciplined approach on offense and improved flow.
“It’s our execution and what we’re doing. It’s our stagnation,” Reeve said. “We were just standing. We’d throw it in to Syl and just look at her and say, ‘Go get ’em.’ We’ve just got to get better in those areas of spacing and movement.”
The Storm (11-16) is tied with Chicago for the last playoff spot and plays four of its final seven games on the road — including two at Chicago. The team fired coach Jenny Boucek on Thursday, replacing her with assistant Gary Kloppenburg. Seattle gave him a 98-89 victory at Phoenix in his debut, ending a four-game losing streak.
While the Storm fights for a playoff berth, the Lynx — who already have clinched theirs — viewed last week as a useful reminder that they still have work to do before the postseason.
“We still have goals we want to accomplish,” forward Rebekkah Brunson said. “Our goal has never been just to get to the playoffs, so we really haven’t accomplished anything yet. We need to continue to build, continue to grow, and we have some improvements we still need to make.”