The Lynx started this season 0-4, without Napheesa Collier for three of those losses, before Layshia Clarendon even joined the team. Over the summer injuries kept Aerial Powers out of 18 games. Damiris Dantas has been lost with a foot injury, and the Lynx, Friday in Indiana, played without Clarendon for the seventh straight game because of a right fibula stress reaction.
So, after an inspired defense had helped the Lynx to a 92-73 victory in Indiana — the team's third straight win against the Fever — coach Cheryl Reeve and her players talked with pride about having locked up a first-round bye for the playoffs.
"That's what we came here to do, to control our own destiny,'' Reeve said.
The Lynx did that. Up seven at halftime over an Indiana team that started the game with seven healthy players but finished with just six, the Lynx held the last-place Fever (6-25) to 10-for-33 shooting while outscoring Indiana 41-29 in the second half.
Seattle's victory over Phoenix late Friday night moved the Storm within a half-game of the third-place Lynx (21-10), in the process relegating the Mercury to a fifth seed. If Minnesota wins its regular-season finale in Washington Sunday, it would keep the third seed. A loss would mean a fourth seed. Either way the Lynx will receive a first-round bye.
Since that 0-4 start, the Lynx have gone 21-6.
"I am really proud of this team,'' said Collier, who scored 17 points with seven rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals. Neither she nor center Sylvia Fowles (21 points, 10 rebounds) played in the fourth quarter, which started with the Lynx up 16. That lead grew as big as 25. "We overcame a lot of adversity this year. Especially from where we started, to where we are now. I'm proud of how resilient we've been. We're a totally different team than when we started.''
Like the first two of three straight against Indiana, the Lynx had difficulty at times with Fever guard Kelsey Mitchell (26 points). Like the last game, an early double-digit lead was cut to single digits by halftime.
But this time, the Lynx came out and stifled the Fever in the second half.
It started with a 19-10 third quarter in which the Lynx held the Fever to 3-for-16 shooting.
The Lynx held Indiana to 36.2 percent shooting, turning 18 Fever turnovers into 26 points, tied for a season high. The Lynx also scored a season-high 24 points on the break.
"I'm extremely proud of these young women,'' Fowles said. "Putting their bodies on the line, getting it done any way they can. I'm happy with where we are.''
There is still work to be done. Reeve wanted to get Clarendon some minutes Friday, but decided against it after morning shootaround. Now the goal is Sunday.
But there are good signs. The Lynx spent much of the week tweaking the offense to get Collier the ball in places where she could score. Mission accomplished.
Fowles continues to dominate, accumulating her numbers in just 24 minutes. Asked postgame how Fowles keeps playing so well at age 35, Reeve suggested it was Geritol – a reference only boomers might know – which had Fowles fired up.''It's a lie, that's a lie,'' she said. "Tell Cheryl to stop playing with me.''
Point guard Crystal Dangerfield continues her crescendo towards the playoffs. On a night when the Lynx were just 6-for-26 on three-pointers, Dangerfield hit three of five and scored 15 points. She shot 12-for-24 and hit four of 11 three-pointers in three wins over the Fever.
"Since May 30, the day Layshia was dropped into this thing, we have one of the best offenses in the league,'' Reeve said. "I'm super proud. People had to step up.''
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.