The Minnesota Lynx now have four losses on the season, half of them coming by way of the Washington Mystics after a 79-75 loss tonight at the Target Center. The loss is their first at home this season, snapping a 10-game winning streak, as well as an 18-game home win streak.
The game featured a key pre-game injury, as it was announced before the game that starting big Janel McCarville would be forced to sit out due to a concussion suffered Tuesday against San Antonio. Head coach Cheryl Reeve ultimately went with another big, Amber Harris, who started her first game ever with the Lynx tonight.
"If I could do it again right now, I might do something different. It didn't go very well," said a frustrated, yet optimistic head Coach Reeve following the loss.
The game opened with Ivory Latta hitting shots. A lot of shots (a Latta shots?). With just 4:20 to go in the first quarter, Latta already managed to compile 11 points on 4-4 shooting, as well as 2-2 shooting from beyond the arc. That continued all half, as she finished the first half with 19 points, on 7-7 shooting from the field, 4-4 from the arc.
A lack of perimeter defense and closing out on the 3-point line is what caused problems for the Lynx, even more so than Latta's early hot hand.
It was back-and-forth between Latta and Maya Moore, who finished the half with 16 points on 7-10 shooting, as the Lynx went into the half losing 45-40 - something they are far from accustomed to.
The third quarter was the only one that Minnesota managed to outscore Mike Thibault's Mystics, winning 18-16. Even so, it seemed as though they forced themselves to play catch-up throughout.
Part of the third quarter success came from foul trouble from Latta, along with an increased level of activity on the defensive end. The Mystics shot 5-8 from three in the first half, but finished the game 5-16.
Yes, the Lynx held the Mystics to 0-8 shooting in the second half, but still couldn't pull out the W.
It wasn't until the fourth quarter, highlighted by plays from all three leading scorers for Minnesota that the Lynx were finally able to regain a lead, their first lead since the first quarter. Lindsay Whalen started things off by scoring the first seven points of the quarter, giving the Lynx a lead that did not last long.
With little time remaining in the game, the Lynx trailed 75-67, and it seemed like it was over, but behind the leadership of Maya Moore, they were able to battle back with a 3-pointer by Moore, two free throws by Seimone Augustus. This run to tie it up was capped off by a clutch three by Seimone, who finsihed her night with 18 points, most of them coming in the fourth quarter.
The Mystics finally answered with an easy lay-in by Matee Ajavon on a broken defensive sequence by Minnesota. Ajavon had a solid night in her own right for Washington, putting up 18 points and 5 assists, but also pick-pocketing Minnesota 5 times on the evening.
A missed jumper by Moore, and a mis-timed jump for a tip by Rebekkah Brunson spelled the end of a great win streak for the Lynx.
"They made the plays when they had to and we didn't," said Lindsay Whalen, who put up 19 points and 5 assists for the Lynx, but also struggled with 5 turnovers on the night. "We made some critical errors, starting with myself, at tough times and it's hard in a close game like that. You've got to be able to execute down the stretch.
Problems on the defensive end were not he underlying factor behind tonight's loss, however. It was, without question, the rebounding, or lack thereof, on Minnesota's end.
Whether you look simply at offensive rebounds (14 for Washington, 7 for Minnesota), or just total rebounds (44 for Washington, 24 for Minnesota), McCarville's absence was apparent on the box score, if anything else.
"I think it's unacceptable to get killed on the glass like that," Coach Reeve said. "On the worst of nights you should be able to rebound."
Fun fact: The last two times the Lynx have lost at home have been at the hands of head coach Mike Thibault, one of which occurred tonight with Washington, and the second back in July of 2012 when he was the head coach of the Connecticut Sun. Yet another member of the Minnesota Killer Club, joining the likes of Earl Boykins, every Yankee ever, and countless others.
Oh, by the way, I'm Tim. I'll be covering Wolves and Lynx games like this for Canis from now on, if you'll have me. It's my first day on the "job" and I'm loving it. I just hope I'm not bad luck. I'm off to a rough start in that regard.