MINNEAPOLIS -- Cheryl Reeve felt lucky with the way the WNBA schedule broke for the Lynx this season. The team had the all-star break this past weekend for rest, then a few extra days for good measure.
Some WNBA teams got back to games as early as Tuesday; the Lynx don’t play until Saturday, Aug. 3, at Indiana. That meant more practice for Reeve and Co..
“I told our group it’s a gift that the schedule worked out this way for us,” Reeve said, “because I think we could really use this time to propel us into our remaining 14 games.”
The Lynx are clinging to the league’s eighth and final playoff spot, just one and a half games clear of ninth-place New York, but also the same distance out of fourth place. They could as easily fall out of the playoffs as it could reach the semifinals.
It just depends on which Lynx (10-10) team shows up down the stretch. From starting the season 5-0 to dropping four of five before the break, the first half of the season was a mixed bag.
Reeve doesn’t think there’s a lot of disparity between who Minnesota is and who it wants to be. Getting healthy should help.
Seimone Augustus could make her return any game now, which would give the Lynx an offensive boost. Stretch big Damiris Dantas returned to action in late July and gives Minnesota a needed 3-point threat.
That should help with one of Reeve’s pet peeves, shot selection. Minnesota is a good shooting team but its offensive rating (95.8 points per 100 possessions) is eighth in the league. “We were fortunate to win the games that we did with our offensive rating being so low,” the coach said.
Put simply, the Lynx turn the ball over too much and don’t take enough 3-pointers or free-throws; they’re 10th in 3-point attempts per game and ninth in free-throw attempts. No surprise, they did more of each when ripping off early wins.
The Lynx’s free-throw rate has dipped dramatically in the past month.
“Some people take shots that we probably should turn down,” Reeve said. “So, just going through and taking inventory of those sorts of things, and see if we can’t do each thing a little bit better. We have to climb in the offensive rating if we want to have a chance at this.”
At practice Tuesday, Reeve barked at players who took what she deemed to be bad shots.
“There’s just certain shots we don’t want people to take. It makes no sense,” she said. “Hopefully they don’t take things personally. It’s just about the success of the team in the name of efficiency.”
Minnesota’s defensive efficiency is good, third in the WNBA at 94.4 points per 100 possessions. But all week Reeve emphasized the goal is great, not good.
“We’ve really felt like there are games where we’re really good, we’re on it and we hold people to below 40 percent (shooting), we have a plus double-figure rebound (advantage),” Reeve said. “Those are our greatest days.
“Then there are other days that I feel like our pick-and-roll coverage is not what it’s supposed to be, our help behind the pick and roll will be late or non-existent. So, it goes to the next layer of defense that I think we can get better.”
The positive for Minnesota is that all of its shortcomings — paying attention to details on defense, taking good shots and taking care of the ball — are correctable.
“We don’t sit here and go, ‘We’re screwed, we can’t fix anything.’ We don’t feel that way. We feel like we’re a group that’s learning,” Reeve said.
With Sylvia Fowles, Odyssey Sims and Napheesa Collier on the roster, Minnesota has the talent necessary to compete at the highest level — if it can simply tighten a few things up.
“We always knew that going into it, that it’s always the small things that separate you from being a good team to an elite team,” Fowles said. “So, you just have to have that maximum effort, focusing, game-in and game-out, just making sure we go out there and do what’s characteristic of us and not losing sight of our goals.”