The Lynx have had an emotional last few weeks. First, there was the 13 game winning streak, breaking the WNBA record for the best start to a season. The last win was against the L.A. Sparks, who had a chance at revenge immediately as the teams faced off in a home-and-home series in a matter of four days. The streak ended during that rematch, a home game for the Lynx where the road team wanted it more.
Next, they traveled to Washington to take on the Mystics. They were thrashed in the first quarter and the starters hardly played in the game as the home team had a 20-point lead most of the way. It ended up being a 24-point loss for the Lynx.
The team looked tired, and that is expected after working so hard during that 13-win streak. Those last two games show why the start was so impressive. These bad games could have easily happened earlier in the season, but they didn't. "We're not made of steel," head coach Cheryl Reeve said before the game when discussing the losses. She's right, and Minnesota was bound to come back to Earth at some point.
After visiting the White House for winning the championship last year, the Lynx came back to get ready for a three-game home stand. After a hectic couple of weeks, the team was looking forward to come back home to right the ship. Unfortunately, they found their first opponent in the New York Liberty. They are the number one team in the East and their record was 10-5 coming into the game.
It was announced before the game that Tina Charles, the WNBA's leading scorer and rebounder, would not play for the Liberty. She was recovering from surgery for a broken nose suffered in a game against the Indiana Fever. After two losses, it seemed Minnesota had caught quite a break. That was not the case, as former Lynx player Sugar Rodgers went off. She hit seven three-pointers and scored a career-high 30 points in an overtime win over the defending champs. New York came out on top, 95-92.
It was a tough loss to swallow by itself, let alone it being the third one in a row after starting the year so well. The game was close for the entire first-half. The Lynx were trailing by two points, 45-43, going into the break. At that point, Sylvia Fowles and Renee Montgomery were the ones leading the way for Minnesota. Fowles had 13 points on 5-8 shooting and four rebounds. Montgomery had nine points, without missing a shot, and three assists. Maya Moore had only two points going into the locker room and fans were a little on edge as they hoped the team would bounce back from there funk.
Moore appeared to be the savior in the third quarter. She scored 16 points, including the first seven of the frame, in a fury that could not be stopped. She had two steals and two assists as well while playing nine minutes of the quarter. She helped propel the team to a 12-point lead heading into the last quarter and the home crowd was ready for another win.
The fourth quarter came and the offensive party was over for the Lynx. After 29 points in the third, the team scored 11 in the 4th. They led 81-66 with a little over six minutes left before New York proceeded to go on a 17-2 run to end regulation all tied up. The worst part of it all was that the Lynx had two chances to take the lead again after it was knotted up.
Janel McCarville missed badly on a long-two and when the team got a second opportunity, no one took the shot. 27.6 seconds were left on the game clock and Lindsay Whalen started the play with about 11 left on the shot clock. You have to give credit to New York for preventing a shot but it was as if the players had no awareness. They passed and passed until the buzzer sounded leaving the road team with 3.5 seconds to take a last shot of their own. They missed as well sending the game to overtime, but the momentum was still in their favor.
After trading buckets for the first few minutes, New York finally started pulling away and they led 95-89. Moore tried to play hero again as she hit a three to give the team hope. She then forced a bad pass and got the steal with 14.7 seconds left to play. Reeve called a timeout and drew up a play for Maya again.
The Liberty had to know it would be Maya and they doubled her to prevent her from getting a good look. She missed, but Keisha Hampton was able to force a jump ball with 3.9 seconds left. Moore was able to recover the tip but threw up a wild shot that missed as time expired.
"It would be an understatement to say that was incredibly disappointing," Reeve said after the game. Again, coach is right. Minnesota had a 15 point lead at one point and they are not supposed to lose these types of games. The odd thing about this one was that the starters were the ones who couldn't close this out. Every starter was a negative plus/minus and every bench player was a positive for the game. When it came to closing time, the team just couldn't do it.
The Washington game was one where you could see the players didn't want once it went south so fast. This one was different. The third and fourth quarter showed that the Lynx players were still hungry. Natasha Howard, Moore and Montgomery were all making hustle plays around the court. They just couldn't play their game offensively like they did during the streak and it's starting to highlight weaknesses.
"Perimeter players on every team have their way with us. We can't get out there and guard the three," Reeve assessed after the game. The Mystics hit 11 threes against the Lynx last Sunday and Rodgers had seven of those alone last night. Teams are starting to exploit a defense that buckles down and refuses to let them score in the paint by creating ball movement outside that leads to open shots. It's something the Lynx need to address going forward and I guarantee they will. Reeve was not happy with the end of regulation and the team's defense against the three.
Moore ended the game with 24 points, five rebounds and four steals. Fowles had 18 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Montgomery chipped in 14 points and four assists.
This is a veteran team, but still a coachable team. Some may want to panic after losing three games in a row but remember this: the team still won 13 games in a row to start the season. As other teams adjust, so will the Lynx.
Next up, the team hosts the San Antonio Stars this Saturday at 7 PM CST.