Cheryl Reeve might be a little frustrated, but she’s not about to panic. Simply put, this has happened before.
The Lynx flew back from Phoenix Saturday morning having lost a second-consecutive game because of fourth-quarter problems. It is the team’s first losing streak this season.
And, because the two losses — both on the road — came against Los Angeles and Phoenix, the WNBA’s Western Conference race has become rather tight for the stretch run. With four wins in a row, the Sparks have moved into the fourth and final playoff spot in the conference. Phoenix’s five-game winning streak moved the Mercury (14-7) within one game of the Lynx (15-6).
Reeve’s message to the team? Rather simple: Continue to have confidence in yourself. But there are things you need to clean up, especially on defense.
“We do have veterans,” Reeve said. “It’s the veterans that need to clean this stuff up. We’ll be direct in what needs to happen in order to be successful.’’
That said, this isn’t new. The Lynx usually go through a stretch like this. Last season they lost three of four, then won 15 of their next 17 games. In 2013, their second title season, the Lynx lost three in a row in August but lost just two games the rest of the season.
The team has played without All-Star Seimone Augustus since she had arthroscopic surgery on her right knee July 17. But Augustus took full part in practice Thursday and could be back playing within a week.
And the Lynx just finished a stretch of five games in 10 days, which included a home-road back-to-back.
Execution needs to be better for a Lynx team that was outscored 23-10 in the fourth quarter in Los Angeles and 15-10 Friday in Phoenix.
Against the Mercury only Asjha Jones (six points) and Lindsay Whalen (four) scored in the fourth quarter. The rest of the team went a combined 0-for-8.
And, on defense, there have been too many breakdowns. “My best players, the ones I count on, that have been doing this for a while, are making mistakes,” Reeve said. “It’s my starters who are not getting it done, wasting energy, being out of position. We have to be disciplined and focus on the little things.’’
Perhaps it’s good that the Lynx host L.A. on Sunday at Target Center, another shot against the Sparks team that, now fully healthy, handed the Lynx their worst loss of the season, 81-63, last Tuesday.
“Winning at home is the key,” Reeve said. “Everything else takes care of itself. We’re not standings-watchers. We’ll never do that. We focus on the next task at hand. This is a home game, and we owe them.’’
Note: Augustus came out of her first practice feeling very good and, not surprisingly, pushing to get herself back into action. But Reeve is determined to be patient.
“I’d say she’s close,” Reeve said. “I can’t stress enough the importance of making really, really sure she’s ready.’’
Reeve said Augustus would warm up with the team before Sunday’s game, though she almost certainly won’t play. A good target for her return might be Friday in Atlanta. The Lynx will not practice Monday, then Minnesota hosts San Antonio on Tuesday. The team — and Augustus — would be able to practice at least once more together before heading to Atlanta.