Lynx are beating best teams, losing to cellar dwellers
MINNEAPOLIS — Trying to make sense of the Lynx's last week, let alone the season, is difficult. A team renowned for its consistent success has been down, then up, then down, all depending on the game.
Over their past four games, the Lynx have looked like two entirely different teams.
On July 1, Minnesota outlasted Dallas for an impressive road win in a tough environment.
"Maybe my favorite game of the whole season, because it was hard," Lindsay Whalen said. "It was hot in that gym, people were right on you and we just found a way to win."
Two days later, they found a way to lose. The defending WNBA champion's home loss to the Fever was Indiana's second victory of the season. But the Lynx bounced back Thursday, delivering likely their best performance to date in a dominating home win over the Sparks. That was followed up with a loss to the struggling Sky.
This franchise isn't accustomed to such volatility.
"When you don't pay attention to detail on both ends of the floor, you're very up and down," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "Sometimes you set a good screen, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you take a good shot, sometimes you don't. Sometimes you play the schemes, sometimes you don't. That leads to very up and down."
The Lynx aren't alone. There's a reason just five games represent the difference between teams No. 1-8 in the standings ahead of Minnesota's road game in Indiana on Wednesday. No one's sailing has been smooth.
Last season, the Sparks had eight losses all season and earned the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. This year, even with eight losses through 19 games, Minnesota still could finish with the league's best record.
But a 3-6 start eliminated much of the Lynx's room for error this season, even after a subsequent seven-game winning streak.
"It's a funky year," Reeve said. "How many losses do we have, and we still have a chance of achieving our goals. But it's not really about that right now. We're so locked in on wanting to play at a higher level, more consistently, so you guys don't call us names."
Part of Minnesota's inconsistency can be chalked up to a condensed schedule created in order to finish the season prior to the World Cup tournament in late September. The Lynx are playing its 34 regular-season games in 91 days, 21 days fewer than it took them last season.
Consistency can be hard to develop without ample practice time.
"Eight games in 16 days, you're going to get slippage," Reeve said.
Still, she won't let that be an excuse. Reeve watched video of the Los Angeles victory and saw a different "bounce in the step" than during a loss to the Chicago Sky.
"I told the team, there is no team that isn't going to go through being tired," Reeve said. "You have to win the game."
That's what Seattle did Sunday night against Washington. Two days after a win in Atlanta, the Storm came home and outlasted the Mystics.
"They were tired, won the game, then talked about how tired they were," Reeve said. "Don't lose and say you're tired. Win the game. We just didn't play well enough. ... (In Chicago). We didn't have the sense of urgency. We were running in mud and our execution was terrible."
"Our job is probably to be a little more mentally tough," Whalen said. "Obviously some things didn't go our way early against Indiana and Chicago, and in years past we've been able to kind fight through those things. I think as a team, we're getting there, and we need to keep working. (The past week) shows if you don't have those moments where you're really connected ... then anybody can beat you."