Are the Lynx Actually In Danger Of Missing the Playoffs?

(image credit: courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx on Twitter)

For over a decade, one thing has been consistent in the WNBA. The Minnesota Lynx have made deep runs in the playoffs.

Since 2011, Minnesota has been one of the top eight teams in the league to qualify for the postseason, reaching the playoffs for an 11th consecutive time in 2021. Over that span, which is the longest active streak in the WNBA and the second-longest such run in WNBA history (Indiana, 2005-16), the Lynx have claimed four league titles which is tied with the Houston Comets and Seattle Storm for the most by one franchise in WNBA history.

In 2022, Minnesota has been on a mission to extend that streak to 12 seasons and make their 14th playoff appearance in franchise history. Maybe they could get hot at the right time to make a run at a fifth championship and the first since 2017.

But they’re in the final month of the regular season, which concludes Aug. 14, and that might not happen. With five games remaining for Minnesota, starting with a contest against the Seattle Storm on Aug. 3, the Lynx are in grave danger of missing the playoffs. Time is running out for them to make their dash toward a late-season push into the postseason.

Lynx Stance in the Playoff Picture

Following a potential season-saving win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday on the road, Minnesota holds a 12-19 record. However, it is still near the bottom of the WNBA standings, with a handful of games remaining.

A big reason for the Lynx being near the bottom of the standings is the early-season hole they dug themselves into, notably the 3-13 start to the year. A flurry of injuries, absences, and roster moves fed into some of those early struggles and inconsistencies. But Minnesota bounced back in the middle of the season to put itself back into the playoff picture.

The Lynx have given themselves a chance over the final few weeks of the regular season, which is all they could have hoped for after starting the year behind the rest of the league. There is still work to do for Minnesota, but it enters August just a game back of the final few spots in the postseason picture.

“All we need is a number by our name,” Aerial Powers said in June while referring to the top eight seeds needed to make the postseason. “Especially with the way playoffs are set up, we would be just fine.”

Following the game against Los Angeles over the weekend, the Lynx have clawed their way to stand within one game of the eighth and final playoff spot. Minnesota also owns the tiebreaker over Los Angeles (the eighth seed) and Phoenix (the seventh seed), which could become a key factor over the final stretch of the year.

“I’m thrilled. I’m not going to downplay this at all,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said about the Lynx playoff chances after beating Los Angeles over the weekend. “This is a team that is hanging in there and trying to control our own destiny. We understand how hard it’s going to be. We understand the percentages. It’s not what we’re focused on.”

But as close as the Lynx are in the final weeks of the regular season, they are quickly approaching a win-out stage of the year to reach the playoffs ultimately.

Could This Be A Postseason Without the Lynx?

There is still a chance Minnesota sneaks into the playoffs. But as the games wind down, there is a real possibility that they don’t.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s WNBA predictions and projections, Minnesota has a 37 percent chance to make the playoffs with five games remaining. There are three teams ahead of the Lynx in those projections — the Dallas Wings, Phoenix Mercury, and Atlanta Dream — that FiveThirtyEight believes have a better chance to claim the final three playoff seeds.

“We want to be the best that we can and be in a position that, if things start to turn for anybody above us, we’re there to catch it,” said Reeve, the winningest coach in postseason history with 41 wins (66.1 percent win percentage). She’s also the only head coach to reach the WNBA Playoffs in 11 straight seasons with the same franchise. “Winning is obviously something that has to be done in order to do that.”

If Minnesota fails to make it to the playoffs, it would be a rare occurrence for a franchise that has made such appearances an annual affair since 2011. It would end the 11 consecutive postseason appearances streak, sending the Lynx into the WNBA Draft Lottery for the first time since they selected Maya Moore first overall in 2011.

Minnesota doesn’t want to miss out on the playoffs, especially in Sylvia Fowles’ final season before retirement. But missing the postseason could allow the Lynx to quickly rebound in 2023 while drafting a top-tier talent to potentially replace Fowles or address another area of need on the team. And with Napheesa Collier — who has yet to play in 2022 after giving birth to her first child in May — returning in full capacity next summer, Minnesota would be able to reload and rebound quickly.

But there is still work to be done this season for the Lynx as they try and focus on making a late dash into the playoffs. That is still possible over the final few weeks of the regular season, and Minnesota controls its destiny. However, time is running out for the Lynx, who are in must-win territory over the season’s final five games.

“We need to win,” Powers said. “We just have to win every game, and hopefully at the end of the season we’re at the eighth spot.”

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