Following a late-June game against the Dallas Wings at Target Center, Aerial Powers displayed optimism about the Minnesota Lynx being able to turn what had been a rough near-two-month stretch to start the 2022 WNBA season into a successful second half. Could the Lynx make a 12th-straight playoff appearance this year, despite everything that happened?
“All we need is a number by our name,” Powers said, referring to the top eight seeds needed to make the postseason. “Especially with the way playoffs are set up, we would be just fine.”
Just a few weeks ago, the thought of the Lynx being able to put a strong run together to get back into the heart of the playoff picture seemed bleak. Minnesota was one of the bottom two teams in the league standings after a 3-13 start to the 36-game regular season.
The Lynx appeared to be on pace to take part in the WNBA Draft Lottery as one of the bottom four teams in the league. The hope of reaching the postseason dwindled by the game as the regular season progressed. But about the same time Powers made those post-game comments in late June, Minnesota turned things around. The Lynx have been one of the hottest teams in the WNBA since, with the season now looking like it might flip for Cheryl Reeve and Co.
Entering the All-Star break, which took place July 9-10 with Sylvia Fowles serving as the lone Lynx representative in Chicago, Minnesota, has been a completely different team than even a month ago. The Lynx are back in the thick of things.
It’s not too often you see a team completely turn it around in the middle of a season, especially to the extent the Lynx have over the last few weeks. It almost feels like Minnesota is playing a separate season. They are a completely different team than the one that took the court over the first month-and-a-half of the regular season.
In the first 16 games of the year, the Lynx held a WNBA-worst record of 3-13. Minnesota ranked near the bottom of the league in multiple statistical categories:
- Seventh in field goal percentage (43 percent)
- Eighth in offensive rating (98.6)
- 10th in turnovers (15.6)
- 11th in defensive rating (106.4)
- 11th in net rating (-7.8)
- And last in three-point percentage (31 percent)
Since that point, though, the Lynx’s performance completely flipped. They are performing like one of the top teams in the league:
- They lead the league in offensive rating (113.9).
- Rank sixth in defensive rating (100.6)
- And have the top net rating in the league (13.3)
As a result, Minnesota has gone 6-2 in the last eight games following its game against the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday.
The sudden turnaround by the Lynx has been somewhat surprising to see. Not for the fact that it is happening, but to the extent that it has happened. And now, Minnesota finds itself back into the postseason picture.
Back in the Playoff Picture
If you look at the current standings in the WNBA, you will find the Lynx still near the bottom of the league as the 11th seed. Although that doesn’t sound like a good situation for a team trying to make the playoffs, Minnesota is within striking distance of one of the bottom postseason seeds. That wasn’t the case just a few weeks ago.
Following Tuesday’s big double-overtime win over Phoenix, the Lynx sit just 1.5 games back of the eighth and final playoff seed. Minnesota is also only two games back of the sixth seed.
There is still certainly work to do for the Lynx. However, they have not only inched their way back into the playoff picture, but they are also now in the thick of things with a legitimate chance to snag one of the final seeds.
A Team to Watch in the Second Half
Coming out of the All-Star Break, Minnesota had 13 games remaining on its schedule before the regular season concludes on Aug. 14. Following Tuesday’s game against Phoenix, that leaves a dozen games, starting with a home contest against the Dallas Wings on Thursday at Target Center.
With the play the Lynx have displayed lately, mixed with the consistent play of a finally healthy roster — except for the absence of Napheesa Collier (maternity leave), who could potentially return this summer after resuming some activity — they could make a late push in the postseason.
In those 12 games over the final month of the season, the Lynx will play five of those games at home. However, about half of those games will come against teams right around Minnesota in the standings, which could either make or break their playoff hopes.
Despite what happens at the end of the regular season, Minnesota’s turnaround has been impressive. Despite their early-season struggles, they are back in the mix and have a chance to put a number next to their name.