Of all the messages Cheryl Reeve delivered Tuesday, one stood above the rest. No matter how closely other people are watching the WNBA standings, the Lynx coach ordered her players to ignore them.
With so little separation among the top nine teams, Reeve knows there will be plenty of volatility over the final three weeks of the regular season. And the third-place Lynx, who kick off a rugged three-game stretch Thursday at Los Angeles, can ill afford to be distracted. Over the next four days, they play back-to-back road games at fourth-place L.A. and league leader Seattle, then return home to face second-place Atlanta Sunday at Target Center.
The Lynx are currently third, four games behind Seattle but only 1 1/2 games ahead of eighth-place Dallas, which is holding on to the final spot in the WNBA playoff chase.
The emotional high of hosting last Saturday’s All-Star Game put the Lynx in a good frame of mind entering the season’s final nine games. To keep it that way, Reeve instructed her team to tend solely to its business and let the rest sort itself out.
“The up and down of the day-to-day, we’re not going to ride that rollercoaster,” said Reeve, whose team won its final three games before the All-Star break. “It’s evident that anybody can still finish first.
“Each game, we need to make sure we’re improving as we head toward the postseason. That’s our mission. I understand everyone’s excited about the parity, but we’re not going to be focused on that.”
The All-Star break gave everyone a chance to rest and recharge, including Reeve. Before the festivities started, she gave herself a one-day break from basketball and went kayaking with her nieces on some local lakes. The time off, she said, left the Lynx rejuvenated and ready for three weeks that could be as wild as a whitewater expedition.
The WNBA’s 34-game schedule is compressed this season because of a major international tournament in late September. With the Lynx’s last nine regular-season games packed into 18 days, Reeve must carefully manage the starters’ minutes and rely more on her bench players, who put in extra work Monday to prepare.
The coach is paring down the playbook and fine-tuning details on both offense and defense. She also anticipates using more walk-throughs and film sessions in the coming weeks in order to keep the team sharp while conserving its energy.
Reeve said the team “had a bounce in its step’’ at Tuesday’s practice, one of the last it will have before the postseason. Seimone Augustus, one of four Lynx to play in the All-Star Game, cautioned it will be important to keep the stress level low as the team works toward a top-two finish — another reason to avoid peeking at the standings.
“You just have to let it go,” she said. “What we can control is what we do on the court. If we just do our job, things will work out the way they should.”
The Lynx have one of the WNBA’s toughest remaining schedules, reducing the margin of error for a team that has struggled to find its footing. Though consistency has been an issue, Augustus liked the grit her team showed in an 85-82 victory over New York in its last game before the break. That gave the Lynx confidence they can push through the challenges of a tight playoff race, she said, and get into a groove in time to make a postseason run.
Maya Moore, the MVP of the All-Star Game, said the Lynx are eager to get back on the floor after winning 13 of their past 18 games. She urged the team to remember the details that fueled its recent momentum, while her coach asked it to forget anything outside of its control.
“We didn’t standings-watch in any other year,” Reeve said. “Let’s not do it now.”