The Minnesota Lynx are in a place they are not used to after tonight: in the midst of a losing streak. They fell to the Tulsa Shock by a score of 83-77, marking their third straight loss, and their second in a row at home. The last time the Lynx lost two straight at home was in early August of 2010.
While they Lynx coaching staff welcomed the return of Janel McCarville after she missed the last two games with concussion symptoms, they were forced to deal with another hole in the starting lineup. Bobblehead night honoree, leading rebounder, and starting power forward Rebekkah Brunson was forced to sit with a sore right knee. Status for her return is unknown at this point.
The Shock were not at full strength either. Leading scorer Glory Johnson was forced to sit after sustaining a head injury, along with Riquna Johnson with a sprained ankle.
The first half, for the third straight game, did not go the way Cheryl Reeve and her club wanted. Engaging in a see-saw battle with one of the league's worst teams, the Lynx were unable to handle the physical play of Liz Cambage and Nicole Powell without Brunson. The problem was exacerbated by Janel McCarville's early foul trouble. Despite their problems in the paint, the Lynx trailed only 44-42 at halftime, with plenty of room to make their move in the second half.
That never happened.
"We didn't get done what we were trying to get done," said Lynx Head Coach Cheryl Reeve at the post-game presser. "We needed more ball pressure. We needed to dictate access on the guard spot, that didn't happen for sure in the first half."
Early on in the second half, the Lynx looked ready to make their move. With an early push to take a quick lead, and a couple nice blocks by Devereaux Peters (who had the best all-around game for the team), it looked like the Lynx were finally back to form. Their sense of urgency was apparent.
Again, they still couldn't get it done.
Despite a hot start, a three-pointer by Candice Wiggins and some nice work inside by Liz Cambage were too much for the Lynx early on in the second half. The deficit grew to double digits for the Lynx, as they trailed by as many as 12 in the third quarter. What had originally seemed like a quarter where the Lynx could make their move, quickly turned into the opposite.
The fourth quarter was a repeat of the third. Seimone Augustus got Minnesota off to a hot start, but it was quickly trumped by Camgage and the Shock, who were able to hold a comfortable lead throughout the quarter.
Janel McCarville played solid defense of Cambage when she saw minutes, but foul troubles plagued her throughout the evening. She only managed 24 minutes on the night, and fouled out with little time remaining in the fourth.
With or without McCarville, Cambage was too much for Minnesota, and was the key behind Tulsa's ability to stay in front throughout the game. She finished with 27 points and 8 rebounds on 8-12 shooting. Five other Tulsa players finished second in scoring with 11, including former Lynx standout Candice Wiggins.
Wiggins could only put together 20 minutes of play, also due to foul trouble.
The star of the game for Minnesota was without a doubt Seimone Augustus. Not only did she lead the game in scoring with 29 points on 12-19 shooting, she also hit a historic mark midway through the second quarter. She became the fourth fastest player in WNBA history to amass 4,000 career points, doing so in 213 games. The fastest ever was Diana Taurasi in 197 games.
Devereaux Peters had the best fantasy stats of the evening. She only had 6 points, but that also came with 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks and 2 steals. Makes me miss Andrei Kirilenko in a way.
After that, the rest of the team struggled. Maya Moore shot 5-14, and Lindsay Whalen 3-12, both also committing 3 turnovers.
Odds are the wins will start piling up soon, and what better time than right before the playoffs? Every team has a rough patch at some point in the season, and there's probably no team in the WNBA that would be more scary with a chip on their collective shoulder than the Lynx.
"I think the second you talk to the players you will hear the disappointment," Coach Reeve said. "We can't hide. We have nowhere to hide."