The injury bug has forced the Minnesota Lynx to get more creative than they would have liked as they shifted around players on their roster. All year long, most notably since June, Minnesota has dealt with multiple players missing extended periods of time due to injuries, including their two free-agent additions, Aerial Powers and Natalie Achonwa, both of whom were supposed to play key roles this season.
Yet even with those injuries and some unplanned roster moves, the Lynx have managed to climb to fourth place in the WNBA standings. Now, with about 10 games remaining in the regular season before the playoffs tip-off in late September, Minnesota is back to full strength and hoping to finish the year strong with all of their players back on the floor.
“In this league, each week is really big,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “I think it’s impressive that our team didn’t even know we had 10 of the last 13 games on the road, so it’s easier from here. But they know, in this league, nothing is easy.”
Back at Full Strength
Minnesota was hoping the month-long Olympic break would allow their injured players the time to recover for the final portion of the regular season. That has proven to be the case, as they are back at full strength after one final piece returned last weekend.
The first bit of good news came during the Olympic break when Achonwa returned from a knee injury to shake off any rust while playing for the Canadian National Team in the Tokyo Olympics. So when the second half of the WNBA season kicked off on Aug. 15, Achonwa was ready to hit the ground running with Minnesota.
The final player to return to the mix was Powers, who hadn’t played since June 12 due to thumb surgery before she returned last Saturday against the Chicago Sky. That game was just her fifth contest of the year. She completes the roster for the final push towards the playoffs in the upcoming month.
“I told coach, ‘I’m ready, I want to play,” Powers said. “(My thumb) is sore, but we can work through soreness. I was like, ‘I’m playing. I’m ready to go.’ She was excited, and I was too.”
Getting back to full strength is a good thing at any point of the year, regardless of how the team is performing, but it’s even more of a welcome sight with just a few weeks remaining in the regular-season schedule.
The WNBA playoff picture is heating up, and the Lynx are still fighting for the best possible seed in the standings.
Following Tuesday’s win over Seattle, Minnesota took a stronger hold on the No. 4 seed with a record of 15-9, trailing the first-place Connecticut Sun (18-6) by three games. The Lynx are just two games back of the Storm (18-8) and Aces (17-7) for the second and third seeds and remain 1.5 games ahead of the Phoenix Mercury (13-10) in the fifth spot.
Minnesota grabbing a top-four seed would significantly improve their playoff chances. The top two seeds get a double-bye while automatically advancing to the semifinal round. The third- and fourth-seeded teams get a one-round bye to advance to the single-elimination second round. If the Lynx were to drop to a fifth seed or lower, they wouldn’t get a bye at all.
The good news for the Lynx is they have been playing some of their best basketball of the season, most of which has taken place away from Target Center lately. Fortunately, they will play five of the next six games at home.
“It’s going to be big. I can’t wait to play in front of the fans. I’ve been out for a while, so I can’t wait to be back home in Minnesota,” Powers said. “During that stretch, that’s going to be big for us. It’s hard to play away. Our fans are so great that we’re going to make it even harder (for opponents). That’s going to help us going into the playoff run; we need those games big.”
Injuries may have put Minnesota in some tough spots to this point in the regular season, but the Lynx have once again been able to work through those roadblocks to charge into the postseason picture. Now back at full strength with less than a month to go until the playoffs begin, the Lynx hope to only continue to improve to make a deep run in pursuit of a WNBA title.