Not usually one to look past the next game, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve made an exception Thursday. After finishing a difficult stretch of the schedule in which the Lynx were never home for more than two games at a time — a period that also included a stretch of seven games in 14 nights — the Lynx are home, now, for a while.
And it’s time.
“We have to win our home games,” Reeve said.
Between now and the All-Star Game break the Lynx will play five games in 12 days. Four of those are at home, including the next three. The Lynx host an improving Las Vegas team Friday at Target Center. That’s followed by home games against Connecticut on Sunday and Indiana on Wednesday. The Lynx travel to Phoenix for a game July 21, then host New York on July 24.
There is enough time, during this run, for some rest and some practice.
“[Our players] are excited about this stretch,” Reeve said. “They don’t look too far ahead. But I mentioned to the starters after the game [a Wednesday victory in Indiana] that we had three straight home games. They were like, ‘We do?’ It was like a shot in the arm for them.”
The Lynx have had some up-and-down performances, but the team is still 8-2 in its past 10 games — the best mark in a league full of teams dealing with the challenges of more games in fewer days.
And now comes their longest homestand of the season. The Lynx are 6-3 at home this season, uncharacteristic for a team that averaged nearly 15 home wins per (34-game) season from 2011 through 2017, a stretch in which they were 103-16 at home.
But they have won five of their past six at Target Center.
With the WNBA as tightly-packed as it is — the top six teams are within 2½ games — this could be a time to make a move.
“Recognizing the chance of four of five at home, the importance of winning our home games, no question that is the narrative,” Reeve said. “This is kind of a pivotal time. When we get to the other side, towards the end of the season, we might look back to that week we had off [after which the team won seven in a row] and this period of time as being important.”
Reeve said nobody might benefit more than Maya Moore. Reeve said Moore has battled tired legs — something Reeve said typically happens for Moore once or twice a season — and an extended homestay could help.
“It’s Maya that probably has been the most affected in these couple weeks,” Reeve said. “She can’t get that second wind.”
The Lynx are in a relative state of flux. Both Rebekkah Brunson (thigh) and Cecilia Zandalasini (ankle) missed Wednesday’s game because of injuries, and both could be out Friday. Brunson’s post defense, always critical, was especially so when the Lynx beat the Aces earlier this season, when she held presumptive rookie of the year favorite A’ja Wilson to a season-low 10 points. Zandalasini, meanwhile, had become a three-point threat off the bench.
Brunson’s job will fall, again, to rookie Endy Miyem, the 30-year-old from France. And while Miyem struggled with her shot (1-for-9), her defense was very good, helping to hold Indiana forward Candice Dupree to eight points on 4-for-15 shooting. Reeve also hopes to continue to gradually give Temi Fagbenle more time at power forward.
Meanwhile, the team formally announced the signing of veteran forward Erlana Larkins to a seven-day contract. Reeve said Larkins likely won’t play much at first, as the team assesses her recovery from an overseas injury to one of her knees and she becomes familiar with her new surroundings.
For the rest of the team, however, it’s time to win at home.
“This could be a valuable time,” Reeve said.