The Minnesota Lynx will need Game 5 to win their third WNBA title in the last five seasons after a disappointing Game 4 loss to the Indiana Fever, 75-69. The win ties the WNBA Finals up at two games each, and Game 5 on Wednesday is for all the marbles. After a solid start, the Lynx gave up major runs in both the second and third quarters, and could not close the gap at the end of the game.
The most eye-catching problem has to start with Sylvia Fowles' foul trouble. Fowles played less than twenty minutes in the game after picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter, then lasting only a couple of minutes in each of the second and third quarters before picking up more fouls. She finished the game with five points and five rebounds, and was a complete non-factor.
Fowles' departures in the second and third quarter seemed to trigger Indiana runs. After Fowles picked up her third foul at 8:42 in the second quarter, the Lynx were outscored 14-6 over the next six minutes, and entered halftime trailing by four points. The execution on both offense and defense was very poor.
The Lynx stole a lead at the start of the third quarter with a quick 6-0 run. However, Fowles committed her fourth foul at 6:40 in the third with the scores tied, and then everything blew up. The rest of the quarter was a 20-8 run by the Fever, with the Lynx unable to either score or get stops. The Lynx committed consecutive shot clock violations at one point during the run, unable to even get a shot.
The Lynx had their shots in the fourth quarter, getting the deficit down to as little as four points near the end of the game, but the hole was just too big. They had their shots from beyond the arc, and just could not get the ball to go in. The Lynx were 3-13 from 3 on the night, and many of those shots were open.
The Fever got scoring from all angles. Four of their five starters were in double figures, led by Shenise Johnson's 15. The Fever's bench outscored the Lynx's, 23-14. Briann January had another excellent all-around game with 13 points and 5 assists, balancing a poor shooting night with abundant appearances at the free throw line. Her ability to get to the basket was a major factor in Fowles' foul trouble.
On the Lynx side, Maya Moore led the team in scoring with 20 points, but was only 8-20 from the field and 2-8 from beyond the arc. She was absent for large portions of the night. Seimone Augustus was 5-15 for 10 points, and was singled out by coach Cheryl Reeve during the third quarter for not looking for her shot more.
A bright spot was Lindsey Whalen, who had her best game of the Finals with 16 points. Anna Cruz and Devereaux Peters both provided sparks off the bench early in the game, with Peters grabbing four offensive rebounds and Cruz providing a spark of energy on both offense and defense, but both faded as the game progressed.
The Lynx need to find a way to stop the bleeding on these bursts that took Indiana away from them. There were points in this game that they looked comfortable, but on far more occasions they were chasing shadows on defense, and unable to find open shots on offense. By and large, Indiana has had the best of this series, and had Moore not hit that game-winner in Game 3, this could very well have ended tonight. The Lynx must be better if they want to celebrate a title on Wednesday night at Target Center.