With three weeks left in the 2021 WNBA regular season, the Minnesota Lynx are still in a fight for the best possible postseason seed. After looking like the Lynx were on pace to claim the No. 4 seed when the playoffs start on Sept. 23, a position they also held at the conclusion of last season, they’re now positioned to potentially move up even higher — or down — making this one of the most important weeks of the regular season for Minnesota.
Entering Tuesday’s game against the New York Liberty at Target Center, the Lynx hold a record of 15-9 for the No. 4 spot, which would mean they would get a one-round bye in the playoffs to advance to the single-elimination second round if the season ended today. That could change with a trio of home games this week.
Key Opportunity This Week
Minnesota is currently one game back of the Seattle Storm for the No. 3 seed, half a game ahead of the Phoenix Mercury at No. 5 and 1.5 games ahead of the Chicago Sky at No. 6.
Winners of eight of their last 10 games, the Lynx will now have three straight games at home this week with just eight contests remaining in the regular season, which could provide a key advantage.
“The standings are really close, so we have to focus on the next game to achieve our long-term goals, which is to get as close to a top seed as you can to secure a good playoff seed,” Napheesa Collier said this week. “We have that big goal, and we can only achieve it by going about our low goals.”
Minnesota opens up action this week facing the New York Liberty on Tuesday before hosting the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday and the Washington Mystics on Saturday. All three games feature opponents in the playoff picture who are also fighting for postseason position.
A few things could play into the Lynx’s favor this week. They have been dominant at Target Center this season, tallying a record of 8-3 so far in front of their home fans. Along with Minnesota having a total of three games, the Storm only play once, which means the Lynx could move to the No. 3 seed by the end of this week if they take care of business against New York, Los Angeles, and Washington.
Although it’s easy to look ahead at what could be, the Lynx are focused on taking things game by game. They want to avoid things taking a turn for the worst in the final stretch of the season.
“I think it’s just focusing on the moment. You do let yourself go sometimes in checking standings because you’re a fan of this league and a player, but ultimately just reminding yourself to stay in the moment,” Layshia Clarendon said. “We’re in a good position where we’re in the driver’s seat and we don’t have to necessarily hope for a bunch of people to lose games. We just need to worry about our games and winning them, and I think things will shake out the way they need to. … We need to focus on ourselves and how we can get better.”
Much-Needed Rest Coming At Key Time
Earlier this summer, following a rough start to the season, Minnesota saw a rare extended period of downtime, which allowed them to get some rest and prepare to turn things around. Now at the end of the year, the Lynx are once again experiencing an extended break from action at a key time of the summer.
Minnesota, who have among the most regular-season games remaining with eight, last played on Aug. 24 against Seattle. On Tuesday, it will be a week since they last took the floor.
“We have some heavy-minute players. … Sometimes it’s just a mental break,” Lynx head coach and general Cheryl Reeve said regarding the time off this week and the benefits of it. “Whatever they needed, we were able to get that done. You hope it pays off.”
Over the next three weeks, Minnesota will have a busy schedule as they try to obtain the best seed possible.
“For one, mentally it’s a pretty big deal because we have been playing so many games and have been around each other,” Clarendon said of the recent time off. “That’s really important how much you need that mental space and obviously physically with all the bumps and bruises at this point in the year knowing you’re not going to get very many more breaks.
“It’s like that last inhale before the next battle for this playoff push and whatever happens after that.”