Before their season started, before the Lynx lost their first six games, Cheryl Reeve made one promise: Her team would try to win every game, but the most important thing would be developing the young talent on the team.

So, when assessing where the team is at the All-Star break, that has to be kept in mind.

One take: The Lynx have managed to rebound from that 0-6 start and — despite two very defensively challenged losses to Las Vegas and Dallas heading into the break — find themselves in playoff position while at the same time giving rookies Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhász plenty of time to learn. Balancing competitiveness and development is not an easy job.

The Lynx rebounded from their slow start. They won five consecutive games at one point and went 9-5 after losing the first six. They did this despite injury and illness that has sidelined forward Jessica Shepard (illness) and guards Tiffany Mitchell (left wrist) and Aerial Powers (ankle). All should return shortly after the regular season resumes.

"We've really grown," said Reeve, the Lynx coach and president of basketball operations. "They're comfortable with each other, and what we're trying to do? When something goes well, we know why it went well. And when it doesn't, we also know what it doesn't."

Napheesa Collier has gone from being very good to being a star. Miller, since her return from an ankle injury, has played with confidence. Juhász, a second-round draft pick, has shown she belongs.

That's the good news.

But there are still issues. The Lynx are 1-8 vs. teams ahead of them in the standings, meaning they struggle against good teams. And, as the back-to-back losses at home going into the break highlighted, they struggle mightily on the defensive end.

The 113 points Las Vegas scored on the Lynx last Sunday were the most points Minnesota have ever given up in a non-overtime game. The 40-point loss to Dallas on Wednesday was the biggest in franchise history.

While Minnesota has found some consistency on the offensive end — their 107.8 offensive rating over the past seven games is fifth in the league — the defense has been a huge issue.

The Lynx's 106.5 defensive rating this season is 10th in the 12-team league. Over the past seven games, the Lynx are last in the league with a 111.2 defensive rating.

In a season where Las Vegas (19-2) is dominating in a fashion perhaps not seen since the 2014 Phoenix Mercury, the seventh-place Lynx are not serious title contenders.

"It's a function of our poor defense," Reeve said after the Dallas loss. "And we've tried to share this with the team. We'll have to keep working. When we get back from the All-Star break they should understand that's got to be our focus. We have to improve defensively. We know what we have to do, we're asking them to do it."

The schedule out of the break is a tough one. Their next seven games include only one against a team below them in the standings.

Guard Rachel Banham credited the team's ability to rebound from the 0-6 start to a close locker room, a team that didn't splinter when things were difficult. "Teams like that can either go away from each other or get closer," she said.

Now the team has to rebound from two one-sided losses, improve defensively and prove it can beat the top teams in the league.

"I would be shocked if we didn't return to practice on Monday, after a few days off, with a mindset we want to be much better," Reeve said. "That's where it has to start.''