January 22, 2024 | Perth Lynx news

Perth Lynx coach Ryan Petrik knows Aari McDonald can’t get back quick enough but at the same time his team can’t rely on her being the saviour and need to keep figuring things out with players becoming accustomed to different roles.

All season long and Petrik has been consistent with his belief that it will be 12 wins that will get teams into the WNBL playoffs. That means with four matches of the regular season to go, the Lynx have some work to do.

Despite having occupied a position inside the top four all season on the back of starting off with a three-game winning streak, the Lynx now find themselves in fifth position at the end of Round 12.

It’s no coincidence that the change in fortunes of the Lynx has coincided with a knee injury to MVP fancy McDonald with the superstar point guard putting up 20.2 points and 6.5 assists over those first 10 games.

In that stretch, the Lynx went 7-3 before she got injured in the December 27 win at home to the UC Capitals. It’s been a challenge for Perth since to make the adjustments on the go without their playmaker.

The Lynx have lost five of the six games minus McDonald with the lone win coming at home to the second last place Adelaide Lightning while they have now slipped to fifth position with a 9-8 record.

That has Perth looking up at the Townsville Fire (12-5), Southside Flyers (10-6), Melbourne Boomers (10-7) and Sydney Flames (10-8) who currently occupy the top four positions.

The Lynx have four games of the season to go starting on Wednesday night on the road to the Boomers. If they want to break back into the top four, then they do have to knock one of those teams out.

A win over the Boomers on Wednesday night and suddenly both teams will sit on 10-8 records so the Lynx are still well and truly in the mix as Petrik and his team try to continue to figure things out with McDonald sidelined.

“We know Aari’s not too far away but obviously time is of the essence but in fairness, it’s not just us either,” Petrik said.

“Every time that’s lost a mega player has struggled. Melbourne was 6-0 and then Jordin Canada got hurt and they lost three of their next four.

“Whitcomb misses a game up in Townsville and they lose by 20, Jade Melbourne has an off night and Canberra gets beat by 30, Sydney have missed Madgen for most of the season and were struggling to make the four.

“So anyone who’s missed players has struggled at times and unfortunately we’re no different.”

Looking back to Saturday night’s 21-point loss at home to the Bendigo Spirit and while it was disappointing, ultimately the biggest difference Petrik noticed was one team shot the ball well and one didn’t.

The Spirit ended up going 54.8 per cent from the field for the game and 12/27 from three-point range while the Lynx managed just 37.1 per cent overall and 8/26 from beyond the arc.

While Petrik will also talk with his group this week about why that desperation in a must-win game didn’t quite appear there from the outset, it was the shooting that was the biggest difference.

“Even (Mehryn) Kraker going 8/10 from three and she was brilliant, but we couldn’t throw it in the ocean,” he said.

“At half-time, we were 2/16 from three and we’d taken seven more field goal attempts and five more free-throws and yet we were down eight. The reality was we probably should have been down 20.

“It’s a bit of a leaky boat the moment without Aari and we’re trying to plug the holes, and a new hole keeps appearing.”

Petrik doesn’t necessarily believe it’s a lack of confidence the Lynx need to overcome in the absence of McDonald, but what he won’t accept is their effort levels not being where they need to be over these last four games.

“For this game they were just off and that’s unacceptable, and we’ll deal with that,” Petrik said.

“We didn’t lack confidence in Sydney, we didn’t lack confidence in Canberra but for this game for whatever reason they were off.

“Certainly we’ve got a lot of people playing out of position, trying to fill holes and plug the boat so to speak. And when it’s not going our way we’re not very good unfortunately.”

Players either playing out of position or playing different roles in the team has been the reality since the injury to McDonald.

Alex Ciabattoni has come into the starting line-up as point guard but Miela Goodchild has taken on more ball-handling and playmaking responsibilities with the roles of Steph Gorman and Amy Atwell having to change a little too.

That’s just the reality of the situation but Petrik does hope the longer the Lynx have to figure out and the more games they get through to try to find what works the better.

“You can see in spurts that we’re really good and in spurts we’re not. Obviously we recruited Miela to play the off ball, shooting guard role and all of a sudden she’s playing the one,” Petrik said.

“Obviously Atwell was playing the off the ball role where if you over rotated she would get open shots, and now without Aari people can just face guard her, top block her and guard her that way.

“It’s kind of put everyone out of position a little bit but that happens, everyone gets injuries and we’re still trying to get through.”