WASHINGTON, D.C. - Tuesday was a microcosm of 2010, a brief return to the losing ways of the past.
Thursday? What a difference two days -- or, on a global level, one year -- can make.
On the heels of the season's worst loss, with a rare playoff berth in their sights, the WNBA-leading Lynx had little trouble taking care of business vs. the cellar-dwelling Mystics, setting a franchise record for regular-season victories with a 81-62 blowout at Verizon Center.
A chance for the Lynx (19-6) to clinch their first postseason berth since 2004 slipped away later, when the Sparks managed to beat Indiana 75-70 in Los Angeles. The Lynx will host Los Angeles on Saturday with a chance to seal the postseason berth at Target Center.
A theoretical milestone for a franchise that went 77-127 over the past six seasons and had just nine wins through 25 games in 2010, this year's club has excommunicated the past from its collective mind, beginning with looking beyond Tuesday's 29-point loss at Connecticut.
"The past, that's gone," said Seimone Augustus, who finished with a game-high 18 points Thursday. "The only thing that loss did was motivate us. It was a wakeup call for us to get ready to push forward to the postseason."
During the team's off day between road games, typically reserved for rest and recuperation, coach Cheryl Reeve called a rare practice.
The results mirrored the intensity shown during training camp and had Reeve praising her team's ability to recover against the Eastern Conference's worst team.
"We had developed some bad habits along the way that Connecticut exposed," Reeve said. "It was an aberration, something we hadn't done all season. We identified those things, and I thought at practice yesterday it was like a training camp practice. They were determined to avenge Tuesday's loss."
Four starters scored in double figures, showcasing the inclusive balance that has Minnesota primed to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. Maya Moore had 14 on 6-for-8 shooting, while Rebekkah Brunson chipped in 13 and Lindsay Whalen 11.
Matee Ajavon had a team-high 15 points for the Mystics, who are on pace for their worst season since their inaugural year in 1998. Nicky Anosike, traded from the Lynx on April 11 for a 2012 first-round pick, finished with eight points.
Regardless of when it happens, the playoffs are all but locked up for the Lynx, but try telling them that simply reaching the postseason means something right now.
"We have nine games left, and we have to win nine games," said center Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds. "It's about playing as hard as we can, getting into the postseason, and keep going up towards the ultimate goal.
"We haven't gotten anywhere near that yet."