Most coaches are loath to admit to any sort of scoreboard watching, even when playoff scenarios are popping up as regular seasons wind down.
Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve is not one of them.
After the Lynx had defeated last-place Indiana for the second straight time Sunday at Target Center, Reeve acknowledged that yes, she is paying very close attention to both her team and others in the battle for playoff seeding at the top of the WNBA standings.
"A little bit of both,'' she said. "We're certainly going to pay attention. We become a fan of teams we've never been a fan of before. All of us are.''
At the moment she was saying this, in Los Angeles, the Sparks were routing a Seattle team playing without injured star Breanna Stewart. That Storm loss, coupled with Minnesota's win, pushed the Lynx into third place, a half-game ahead of Seattle, which finishes its season Friday against fifth-place Phoenix.
"We played the whole season for this, working hard to control our own destiny,'' Reeve said. "We're locked in on ourselves. But it's a great time in our league right now. We're certainly paying attention.''
The Lynx have two games remaining. They play at Indiana — a third straight game against the Fever — Friday. Then they finish the season at Washington against a Mystics team that might need a victory to qualify for the eighth and final WNBA playoff spot.
The WNBA playoff format gives the top two finishers a bye in the first two, single-elimination, rounds in the playoffs and a pass to the best-of-five league semifinals.
The third- and fourth-place teams get a bye in the first round, then need to win a single-elimination second round game to advance to the semifinals.
Teams five through eight have to survive two rounds to advance.
As the regular season comes to an end, Connecticut (24-6) has clinched the No. 1 seed. The Sun has won 12 straight, and clinched the top seed by ending the Mercury's 10-game winning streak Saturday.
Las Vegas is second at 22-8, two games ahead of the Lynx (20-10), who have won 20 games for the eighth time in Reeve's 12 seasons as coach.
Seattle (20-11) is in fourth, with one game left, against Phoenix on Friday.
Phoenix (19-11) has two more games, at Seattle and vs. Las Vegas Sunday. It is still possible for the Mercury to rise as high as third, or find itself out of the top four entirely. Seattle could finish third, fourth or fifth. Las Vegas cannot drop out of the top three.
Here is a look at playoff seed possibilities for the Lynx:
- If the Lynx win both their final games: Minnesota would clinch at least third place. Second place would be a possibility if they finished in a tie with Las Vegas, thanks to winning the season series vs. the Aces. But Vegas would have to lose its final two games.
- If the Lynx go 1-1 in their final two games: Minnesota could finish no lower than fourth place. In this scenario the Lynx could still finish third if Phoenix won its final two games.
- If the Lynx go 0-2 in their final two games: Minnesota would need Phoenix to lose one of its final two games to finish fourth and earn a first-round bye.