Cheryl Reeve shifted her focus to the supporting cast throughout team workouts this week. With Lynx stars Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus sidelined with injuries at least until the postseason, the coach has important roles to fill.
Renee Montgomery, Anna Cruz, Shae Kelley and Sylvia Fowles — all of whom joined the Lynx in July — got most of Reeve’s attention early in the week, and on Wednesday the team signed veteran guard Kalana Greene to try and fill any remaining void.
“To have this much time with Renee and Cruz and Syl and Shae Kelley [was great],” Reeve said. It was nice “getting back to things we had done earlier in the season and that we wanted to bring out again.
“We’re not feeling sorry for ourselves that Lindsay and Seimone won’t be out there with them. The mind-set is just like it was against Phoenix — they’re out there and we have got to step up.”
The Lynx (20-10) entered Sunday’s game 1-4 in their past five but rallied from a first-half deficit against the Western Conference’s second-place Mercury for a 71-61 victory. With four games left in the regular season, the next three at home starting Friday night against the Indiana Fever, they’re hoping to rebuild some momentum.
They’ve already clinched a playoff spot and hold a 2½-game lead over Phoenix despite a 6-6 record in August. Reeve expects her team to recover from the bad month instead of adopting a “survive” mentality the final two weeks of the season.
“It’s really important,” to invest in these other players, Reeve said. “This is the part of a couple lemons and let’s make some lemonade. … No longer is it you’re just going to be there to greet Seimone and [Lindsay] off the bench and be a good teammate. Now it’s you have got to go out there and help your team. Now you have got to know what the heck is going on.”
Fowles has started 14 games since being traded from the Chicago Sky in late July. The 6-6 center is averaging 28 minutes and 14.5 points per game but will need to play an even bigger role with two captains out. Cruz has started 13 games, averaging 27.8 minutes and 7.6 points. Montgomery is averaging 13.4 minutes and 4.2 points per game through 15 games, and Kelley is averaging 2.2 minutes and has scored one point in six games.
Veteran guard Maya Moore helped pick up the slack Sunday as she has done throughout the season when players have gone down. She played all 40 minutes and scored 28 points.
“When we’re just concentrating on doing our best with what we have, we can be so great,” Moore said. “I think you saw that the last game where everyone was determined to be their best for each other and we ended up having a really fun game at home and playing well. We responded from a tough first half. That’s what happens when we’re locked in and focused on playing free.
“We’ve had moments [where we’re just trying to survive] this year and we don’t like how that feels. It’s time to turn it up and play our best basketball.”
Whalen is hopeful she can return for the playoffs but described her progress as day-to-day. She’s focused on getting healthy and playing a good supporting role from the sideline.
“You never know. [Injuries] come up. Mo has had a couple and now me,” said Whalen, referring to Augustus. “People have to step up and keep playing hard and do their thing.”