Having played some of their best basketball during a three-game winning streak, the Lynx enter their final three games with an opportunity.
They won the first three games of their season-long four-game homestand in impressive fashion, and, at 16-15, are currently in sixth place, a half-game ahead of Seattle and Phoenix (both 15-15), and two games behind fifth-place Chicago (18-13).
Finish in fifth or sixth and the Lynx will open the playoffs with a single-elimination home game. Drop to seventh or eighth and it means going on the road.
The Lynx found out how difficult that was last year, traveling to Los Angeles for a first-round loss. This year, given the regular season ends on the road, should the Lynx fall below sixth, they would have to travel from Los Angeles directly to the host city for the game, which will start September 11.
Bottom line: Home is where they want to be.
Not that they can dwell on it.
“We’ve cautioned against this before,’’ coach Cheryl Reeve said. “And it’s no different now. We have to focus on winning possessions, control what we can control and the rest will take care of itself.”
The good news? While winning the past three games — two against teams ahead of them in the standings in Las Vegas and Chicago — the Lynx have averaged 92.3 points, won by an average of 11.7 points and had posted an offensive rating of 114.5.
The Lynx finish the home portion of their schedule Sunday against Indiana. Minnesota held leads of 20 or more points in each of the first two games vs. the Fever and lost both leads. In the first game they rallied to win, in the second game, outscored 48-17 in the second quarter, the Lynx lost 86-75.
The Fever reserves scored 55 points in that game. On Tuesday, the Lynx bench players failed to score in a 93-85 victory over Chicago.
It was the second-most points ever scored by a winning team in a WNBA game without a point from the bench.
Given Indiana’s depth, that needs to change Sunday.
“That’s not something you can duplicate and be successful,’’ Reeve said of Tuesday’s game. “But I think it’s an outlier. Hopefully our bench will be ready to go. Because [Indiana] is deep.’’
But the Lynx are playing as well — and as consistently — as they have all season. It’s a good sign, coming off a difficult stretch in which the Lynx played six of eight on the road.
“I think being at home, we’ve had a sense of urgency about us,’’ Reeve said. “A greater will. We got pretty beat up there. Not physically, more mentally. I think the players decided that, in this homestand, they’d set a tone.”
Whether that will result in a home playoff game remains to be seen.
“We just have to go out and play our game,’’ center Sylvia Fowles said. “We can’t worry about what anybody else is doing. We just have to worry about the Lynx. If we take care of our games we’ll be in a good place.”