Monday Practice Report
Coach Jen Gillom is trying to find that one thing to turn Minnesota's season around. That one switch to pull. That one little detail that could turn a horrifying free fall into a playoff berth.
It has been tough for the rookie coach and her team to find that magical panacea to reverse the team's recent slide. The Lynx have lost 10 of their last 14 games and six of their last seven -- sandwiching a win between two three-game losing streaks. Minnesota once had thoughts of competing for the top spot in the Western Conference, but now find itself tied with San Antonio for third place and a mere one game from falling out of the playoff picture altogether.
Adding even more pressure, the team chasing the Lynx happens to be the one they face next. The young team is going to have to find itself quickly after returning home from a weekend trip to Chicago on Saturday. Minnesota heads to Los Angeles for a Wednesday night tilt against the fifth-place Sparks, a team that started slow but has gotten hot in recent weeks.
"We're trying to find a solution," Gillom said. "I'm still hoping it clicks. All teams have been through it, but ours I guess is so noticeable because everyone else went through it at the beginning of the season and ours is coming toward the end of the season which is a bad time. But all teams have come through it too and overcome. Hopefully we will overcome before it's too late. There's still a chance and until they say no more, we're going to fight until the end."
Gillom said she has tried different lineups and tweaked certain things to try and push her team to break its skid. The encouraging part, at least, is that the team appears to be right on the cusp. Minnesota nearly pulled off an incredible comeback in Chicago on Saturday and have lost only three of those 10 games since the beginning of July by more than 10 points.
That's the silver lining to the losing streak, but to make the postseason it is going to take something more, especially with the team playing seven of their final 10 games on the road.
"A win, but a good win," Gillom said. "A good, just 20-point win just to get that confidence back. Even if it's a one-point win, maybe they think we struggled. Just one of those games that we played against Chicago when they came here or even a 100-point game or something just to get their confidence back because I think they have lost it. I think the further the season comes to an end, the more pressure it puts on us. We need it and we need it now."
One player has started to return to her early season form -- Candice Wiggins. Wiggins has struggled since earning Western Conference Player of the Week back in June, but she has turned in some solid performances in the recent stretch. Wiggins is averaging 15.4 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting in August. In July, Wiggins struggled as she averaged only 9.8 points per game on 33.7 percent shooting.
Wiggins' revitalization has been important for a team looking to break a cold snap, but Gillom said the team is going to need a few more players to step up. The fact she has been through the disappointment of missing the postseason should be an experience that helps her push herself and her teammates. But Gillom admitted the team does not have experience playing in pressure situations and fighting for a postseason berth has probably hurt the team during its recent slide. All Gillom can do is keep telling her player to push through and keep fighting.
The tough road trip and the fight for the postseason is something the team has to experience to grow and develop. The tough road trip -- which will take the team to Connecticut and New York this weekend -- will be an opportunity for the team to learn both for the rest of this season and for a more experienced squad next year.
"If it's not for this season, it will be for next season," Gillom said. "This is something we have to go through. You have to go through it in order to overcome it. If you keep this same team next year, they've been there, they've done it and they know how to get through it. Either way we've got to go through it. Like I said, I hope it will be a better outcome than most people will think. We're still searching, we're still hoping. This team is too scrappy."
Jen Gillom Audio
Jen Gillom is preparing her team for a three-game road trip across the country and a tough road to the end of the season.
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