At practice Tuesday before the team left for Las Vegas, point guard Layshia Clarendon did some drills to see how their sore leg is progressing.
The good news: There was improvement in the stress reaction in the right leg that has forced Clarendon to miss the past three games. But Clarendon was listed as doubtful to play Wednesday in Las Vegas, and there is a chance Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve could hold Clarendon out until the playoffs.
So, with five games left in the regular season, the Lynx may have to continue to find ways to win — they have won five straight and 13 of 15 — with Crystal Dangerfield and Rachel Banham handling point guard duties.
"Layshia has been so good against the Aces, they're probably happy to see she's out,'' Reeve said of Clarendon, who shot 61.3% and averaged 18 points and eight assists in two victories over the Aces this season.
The 18-9 Lynx are 1½ games behind No. 2 Las Vegas in the WNBA standings. Seattle and Phoenix — which has won nine straight — are also competing to finish in the top two, which would guarantee a bye into the league semifinals.
"It's kind of fun,'' Reeve said of the stretch run. "As I told the group, we had a tough training camp, a tough start, a bunch of injuries. But here we are, still having a chance to compete for a top-two seed. We're happy with where we are.''
The Lynx are on a defensive roll, having kept all four opponents under 40% during their recently completed homestand. The defense was good enough to make up for a couple of difficult offensive games in victories over New York, Seattle and Los Angeles.
But Reeve was encouraged by the team's victory over Washington on Saturday. The team shot 52.9% and made 11 of 25 three-pointers.
Battling a bit of a shooting slump, Napheesa Collier made nine of 16 shots and scored 21 points with nine rebounds. Kayla McBride has been consistently good, averaging 19 points and shooting 44% on three pointers (7-for-16) over her last three games. Aerial Powers continues to find her rhythm after missing nine-plus weeks after thumb surgery.
Reeve needs to get more scoring from Dangerfield, who scored just 12 points the last four games, and she needs to get the kind of performance from Banham that she got against Washington. Banham came off the bench to score 13 points, make three of five three-pointers and get eight assists.
Reeve said the team had found it's offensive rhythm, its identity, with Clarendon. Now the team needs to find it again with different combinations until Clarendon returns. Much of the last few games has been spent devising rotations and combinations that will play to the strengths of both guards.
"We're hoping there will be a correction,'' Reeve said of Dangerfield, who was held scoreless against Washington on Saturday. "We know she's very capable of putting the ball in the hole. She's getting good looks. We figure that if she continues to do the right things, eventually there will be a correction.''
Banham is more like Clarendon in terms of her ability to play in the pick-and-roll.
Free throws could also loom large. The Lynx defeated the Aces in Las Vegas despite not attempting a free throw — only the second team to do that in WNBA history and the first to win. After being badly outscored from the free throw line in back-to-back games in Connecticut — and after Reeve was very vocal about her displeasure about it — the Lynx have gotten to the line 21 times a game while winning five in a row and made 18.6. Both top the league during that time.