Friday Practice Report

Inside the Lynx locker room is a paper cutout of some stairs with a paper cutout of Rocky Balboa jogging up the stairs, as he did in the first Rocky movie. Below each step that Rocky has passed reads the score of each Minnesota win.

The goal? 20 wins.

Rocky and the Lynx are nearly halfway on their journey to the top.

"We just need those wins," guard Renee Montgomery said. "It's all about getting 20 wins."

Minnesota has been focusing on achieving that 20-win goal because of what happened last season. The Lynx finished with 16 victories and depended on other teams to lose to earn a playoff spot. It did not happen and they finished two games outside of the playoffs.

To return to the postseason this year, Minnesota set out a goal to win 20 games and ensure that it is in complete control of its destiny at the end of the season.

"We have really hefty goals," guard Candice Wiggins said. "So far, I'm proud of our team's success. But you cannot get content at this time of season. This is like the second gear. It kind of separates teams and which way they go. We're trying to go away from that path we went last year this year."

Rookie guard Renee Montgomery said she has noticed how the older players are pushing to make sure the Lynx reach that 20-win goal so that they can be in control of their own destiny and have other teams hope they falter at the end. It has spurred her to better play in her rookie season.

Recently though, Minnesota has not played its best basketball, as the team has dropped three of its last five. But coach Jen Gillom was encouraged by the intensity in practice the last two days after the team's loss to Atlanta and feels confident as the team heads back out on the road before the All-Star break.

"They look like they are ready to play," Gillom said. "I like the intensity after a loss. They understand what they have to do. I like the intensity we've had in the last couple practices . Hopefully that will carry over to the game and hopefully we can get us a road win."

The Lynx stand at 9-6 two games shy of the halfway point of the season. The team is in prime position to be on pace for its goal at the halfway mark with the All-Star break looming on the other side of a two-game road trip that takes Minnesota to Seattle and Phoenix for the first time since Seimone Augustus' injury in mid-June. The Storm and the Mercury are the top two teams in the conference -- the Lynx are third -- and held serve on their home court in wins over the Lynx in June. But Augustus was injured at Phoenix and the game in Seattle was Minnesota's first without its star player.

Now, the Mercury and Storm could be without their star players. Lauren Jackson of Seattle could miss Sunday's game with a strained Achilles tendon and Diana Taurasi of Phoenix will serve the final game of her suspension Wednesday. Minnesota knows that even without a star, any team in the league can be dangerous.

The focus for the team is staying on track for 20 by getting at least one win on the road.

"That's our goal to get to 10 before the All-Star break," Montgomery said. "And after the All-Star break we need to get 10 more to make sure we get into the playoffs. It's a team goal and it's a goal we can get. It's a really realistic goal and everyone is working towards it.

Gillom said, as she reflects on how her first season as the team's coach is going, that she is proud of the way her team has played. Getting to nine wins at this point of the season -- most of them without Augustus -- has been a great accomplishment. But she said she is still harping on the losses and pushing the team to make them better.

The Lynx feel it is important to get to the 10-win mark before the break and that is their only focus. And it will take plenty of focus to accomplish their goals this season.

"I told them we need at least 10 wins before the All-Star break," Gillom said. "That's their focus right now. They know that we blew our chance at home. Hopefully we can get this win on the road with teams missing players like Phoenix missing Taurasi and Seattle missing Lauren Jackson. You have to capitalize on those things."

Jen Gillom Audio
Jen Gillom says the team had two good, intense days of practice after Wednesday's loss and is focused on getting back in the win column during this road trip.

Renee Montgomery Audio
Renee Montgomery has been practicing with the starters the last two days and, while a change may not be imminent, she is getting more comfortable playing with the starting unit.

Candice Wiggins Audio
Candice Wiggins says the team is focused on achieving its goal of 10 wins before the All-Star break.

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