Minnesota Lynx Balance Playing Time and Competitiveness in Home Stretch of Season

(image credit: screenshot from Minnesota Lynx on YouTube)

Coming into the unusual 2020 WNBA season that featured 22 regular season games over the course of a seven-week span, Minnesota Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve had concerns about the amount of games in such a short period of time.

With her team playing essentially every other day, Reeve admitted she was worried about player health throughout the season and if each of the 12 WNBA teams would be able to sustain the level of play over the course of the year.

Early on in the regular season, Minnesota quickly learned the answer to that question with a handful of injuries suffered by players such as Karima Christmas-Kelly, Shenise Johnson, Lexie Brown, Rachel Banham and Sylvia Fowles. Johnson, Brown and Banham only missed a few games, while Christmas-Kelly was lost for the year with an Achilles injury and Fowles is still out while battling a calf injury.

Following Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Sparks, the Lynx are now in the home stretch of the regular season with six games remaining in a little under two weeks prior to the regular-season finale on Sept. 12.

During that span, the games will continue to come fast and furious for Minnesota and the level of competition will heat up along with it.

“We’ve tried to take the approach of one day at a time,” Reeve said. “I think when you try to do too many things, like figure out today’s game and balance some things for the next day, it has never worked out that well. Our mindset is to win the next one.”

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The “next one,” or rather the next six, will feature games against teams that could weigh heavily on where the Lynx end up in the WNBA standings leading into what Minnesota hopes is a 10th straight postseason appearance.

Beginning with Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Sky, the Lynx will have games every other day through Sept. 12. That’s six games over the span of 11 days — a literal sprint to the playoffs.

In those games, all six of them are against teams that are either around Minnesota, which has recently floated around fourth and fifth place, in the league standings or are fringe playoff teams that the Lynx could potentially end of facing down the road in the postseason.

To round out the year, Minnesota will play Chicago (11-6, 5th place), Dallas (6-10, 8th place), Seattle (13-3, 1st place), Washington (4-11, 10th place), Las Vegas (12-3, 2nd place) and Indiana (5-11, 9th place). The games against the Sky, Storm and Aces in particular could play a large role in the Lynx positioning in the playoff picture.

With that important stretch in mind, Reeve and company still have to keep an eye on playing time, player health and sustainability in the home stretch of the regular season so they aren’t burnt out by the time the playoffs would begin.

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“It’s not any different than what we’ve been doing. We still are monitoring minutes on a couple of players,” Reeve told Zone Coverage. “It’s not a case that we’re just going to throw everything out the window and go all-in. We still have some physical things that we are managing. We have to be mindful of the rest of the schedule and what we look like as we complete the regular season and hopefully position ourselves for the playoffs. It’s a lot to balance and sometimes you can overthink it, but you do have to be mindful of those things.”

Even with early season injuries and what has been a packed regular season schedule for Minnesota and the rest of the league, the Lynx are still in a great position to once again reach the postseason. And Reeve has been delighted with how her team has come together in this unusual season at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

“We got down here for training camp — it actually started in Minneapolis in our time there — and really grew to like the vibe of this group and it’s carried over down here,” she said. “You don’t know how it’s going to go or how it’s going to show itself. The chemistry, the way this team plays together, their relentlessness and how we don’t give up. … They believe in each other and like playing with each other.

“I think that’s led to a level of success to this point that people maybe didn’t anticipate for us. We’re thrilled with that. Now, we’re positioned well and now let’s see how we can finish. … We know we have our work cut out for us. Let’s keep doing what we’ve been doing in locking in on the next game.”

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