Preview: Lynx vs. Storm
While 2018 hasn't resembled other recent Minnesota Lynx regular seasons, it will end in a familiar way -- with an eighth straight postseason berth.
But with four games left, the Lynx are still jockeying for playoff position.
Minnesota (17-13) plays three of its remaining games at the Target Center in Minneapolis, including Sunday's matchup with first-place Seattle.
Maya Moore topped 30 points in the past two games -- including 34 in Friday's victory over Las Vegas that extended the Lynx's league-best postseason streak -- as Minnesota jumped into a tie for fifth with Connecticut.
"That toughness we just played with right there, if we're in a playoff game, that's exactly what we need," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve told the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune after her team beat the Aces 89-73. "I do like what we're showing the last couple of games."
Minnesota trails third-place Washington by two games and fourth-place Los Angeles by one. Connecticut has already beaten Minnesota twice this season to clinch the tiebreaker. The teams meet one more time Friday in Uncasville, Conn.
It had been awhile since the Lynx, who've averaged 26 regular-season wins for the past seven years, went so late into a season before clinching a playoff spot.
Despite that success, the Minnesota players didn't consider the postseason a foregone conclusion.
"It's something we don't take for granted," Moore said of clinching. "It doesn't just happen, especially in a season like this when the race is so close and everybody's been competing so hard to get one step closer to our goal.
"We have a clear understanding of when we do certain things, and we're locked in together, it's really fun to play and it's really hard to beat us."
The playoff position the Storm (23-8) has its eye on is No. 1.
Despite a 100-77 blowout loss at Washington on Thursday, Seattle leads Atlanta by two games in the race for the top seed. Both teams have three games left in the regular season.
The Storm got a favor from the Dream on Thursday when they knocked off the Los Angeles Sparks, helping Seattle secure a spot in the semifinals (the WNBA's top two teams get a bye in the first round of the playoffs).
Seattle coach Dan Hughes gives a lot of the credit for the team's turnaround - the Storm hadn't had a winning season since 2011 -- to 37-year-old point guard Sue Bird.
"A lot of passers see offense, even better passers see defense," Hughes said, according to the league's website. "She sees both."
Bird, in her 16th season and the WNBA's career assists leader, is second in the league this year with 7.4 assists per game.
Young MVP candidate and teammate Breanna Stewart is happy for the chance to play with Bird.
"Any time I have the opportunity to step on the court with Sue, it's something you really take advantage of," Stewart said. "She's the best in the game at what she does. I think that we are lucky to be playing with her."
Seattle returns home to host New York and Dallas next weekend. Atlanta finishes the season with three road games.