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Cheryl Reeve not downplaying Lynx’s improving status

The Minnesota Lynx are a half a game out of a three-way tie for eighth and head coach Cheryl Reeve says she’s happy with their two-game winning streak.

Minnesota Lynx v Los Angeles Sparks
Sylvia Fowles (with ball)
Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Of the six teams fighting for the final three playoff spots in the WNBA, three are on winning streaks and three are on losing streaks. The Minnesota Lynx (12-19) join the Dallas Wings (14-16) and the New York Liberty (12-18) as a team that is on a two-game winning streak. The Lynx are now just half a game behind a three-way tie for the eighth and final playoff spot with five games to go.

The Lynx started the season 3-13. With Napheesa Collier out on maternity leave, they have been less successful than they would have been otherwise. But with Sylvia Fowles still leading the way and Aerial Powers emerging as a key star, Minnesota has been able to put itself in a position where it could still make the playoffs.

“It shows that we do have a little grit in us,” Fowles said. “And if we play things right and play things to our favor that we’ll be in a good spot to make a playoff spot.”

“We’ve gone through kind of some valleys that have been hard for everybody,” said head coach Cheryl Reeve. “I just think it’s a team that knows that we’re better than the way that we played in some of our games. ... We just have come together. We really learned our identity. And we’ve started to defend. I mean, we did not defend early in the season. ... And we’re defending now. And it gives you a chance to win every game that you play in and especially on the road.”

A road game came on Sunday and the Lynx defeated the Los Angeles Sparks 84-77 at Arena. Moriah Jefferson (four assists) paced the team with 22 points and Fowles (nine rebounds, three assists) had 16. Minnesota had beaten the Atlanta Dream 92-85 last Thursday.

“I’m thrilled,” Reeve said of the two-game winning streak. “I’m not gonna downplay this at all. This is a team that is hanging in there and trying to control their own destiny. We understand how hard it’s gonna be. We understand the percentages. But it’s not what we’re focused on. We just want to be the best that we can and then be in position to, if things start to turn for anybody above us, that we’re there to catch it. And obviously winning is something that has to be done in order to be able do that.”

Fowles reached 2,500 made field goals in her career on Sunday, further adding to her resume, which includes an MVP, two Finals MVPs, four DPOYs and being first all-time in rebounds.

“We shared it with the team and we all looked around a sec and said, ‘Digest that for a second: 2,500 field goals,’” Reeve said. “And on the night that she does it, she’s 8-of-9. And, frankly, not very many plays were run for her. She had to really work. We talked to Syl about that — that we’re a better team when she’s getting her stuff a little bit on her own. Occasionally we’ll run some ATOs for her, but ...

“Syl’s just a force. We’ve said everything possible — I don’t know that you could find a more dependable player than what we’ve seen in Syl in a Lynx uniform.”

Fowles gives extra meaning to the Lynx’s playoff chase as she is retiring after this season. On Sunday she seemed to want to take the pressure off Reeve and her teammates when it comes to that. She knows they’re doing everything in their power and that they’ve tried to make this season special from the jump.

“I think Cheryl has an idea of what she wants this last season to be like for me,” Fowles said. “I think my main goal is just to make sure everybody’s on the same page and I’m teaching as much as possible since it’s my last year. I’m really not focusing on playoffs. I focus on the little things, like how can we be better day in and day out.”

Sunday was Fowles’ last regular-season game in LA and her former Lynx teammate and current Sparks assistant coach Seimone Augustus helped honor her.