Normally it's difficult to get Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve to look past the next game. But this week, getting ready for consecutive home games against Connecticut Friday and Sunday, she made an exception when the subject of the playoffs arose.
"You can talk about playoffs all you want,'' she said. "The fact is, this team needs a lot of help from other teams. We can't control that. We can certainly control our efforts. And we have the toughest schedule of the teams were vying with.''
The Lynx will tip off Friday's game with the Sun at Target Center in 10th place, 1½ games out of playoff position with nine games to play.
And, of the teams sitting sixth through 10th, the Lynx have the most difficult schedule. Eight of their nine games are against teams currently in playoff position, including three against the third-place Sun, two against fourth-place Seattle and two against seventh-place Atlanta.
Atlanta has four remaining games against teams in playoff position. L.A., Dallas and ninth-place Phoenix all have six.
And the Lynx head into the stretch with another personnel situation to contend with. Starting power forward Damiris Dantas has taken some time away from the team for personal reasons, though she could return before season's end. In her place, concerned about point guard Moriah Jefferson's sore knee, the Lynx signed guard Lindsay Allen to a seven-day contract.
Jefferson hyperextended a knee in the Lynx's victory July 6 over first-place Chicago.
She has tried to play through the pain but her production has taken a dive. She has shot just 27.7% and averaged 4.8 points in the four games since the injury. Reeve said the knee is improving and could benefit from a few days off rest after playing in four games in six nights.
But to be safe, the Lynx brought in Allen, a point guard who played with both Kayla McBride and Natalie Achonwa at Notre Dame and with McBride for two seasons in Las Vegas.
Reeve said a decision on who would start at power forward would be made Friday, but Nicola Milic, recently signed for the rest of the season, figures to get an increase in playing time, with Jessica Shepard perhaps returning to a starting role.
This is the latest personnel-related hurdle the Lynx have had to jump this season.
"I would say in my 22 years in the WNBA this [season] has presented the most challenges from a coaching standpoint,'' Reeve said. "It's probably a lot of what happened from the general manager's standpoint.''
This was a bit of self-deprecation, as Reeve is also the team's GM.
The team returned from Washington, D.C. on Monday and had Tuesday off. That was followed by consecutive practices Wednesday and Thursday. One of the focuses was on the offense. The team's defense has remained strong, holding three of the last four opponents under 40% shooting. But the Lynx's offense hit a wall in Washington, managing a season-low 57 points.
This while also trying to integrate Allen into the offense on the fly.
"We did find our groove,'' Reeve said, referring to the Lynx winning seven of 10 games before Sunday's loss in Washington. "We settled in with things we wanted to be pretty good at. They've bought into some stuff. We're hoping to finish strong.''