In what turned out to be something of a back and forth affair, the Connecticut Sun had the final run of the game, outscoring the Lynx 19-10 over the last eight minutes to take a hard-fought 84-80 win. The telling stretch, however, came in the 2nd quarter, when the Sun turned up their defense after a high scoring opening stanza, forced a spate of turnovers they were able to convert in transition, and built a double digit lead. The Lynx fought back to eventually lead by five early in the 4th, but did not have enough in the tank to see the game out.
The game started quickly, with both teams finding plenty of offense early in a 26-26 first quarter. It was the Sun threes against the Lynx free throws and mid-range game, as Lindsay Whalen had her shot going early, and Sylvia Fowles was able to operate inside.
The Sun, however, were able to find an answer in the 2nd quarter, increasing their ball pressure on the Lynx guards, something that has caused the Lynx problems on occasion this season. Whalen in particular, despite her excellent shooting night (6-7 from the field), struggles with this, and finished with six of the Lynx 18 turnovers on the night.
In the third quarter, though, the Lynx managed to find something of a rhythm, much of it coming from their defense, especially the reserve back court of Jia Perkins and Renee Montgomery, who were able to disrupt the Sun and get some offense of their own. Perkins hit several key jumpers, and Montgomery’s three point play gave the Lynx their first lead of the half.
That lead stretched to five early in the final quarter, but the Sun once again turned up the defense, and none of the Lynx guards—and Cheryl Reeve tried all of them—could get them into anything successful offensively. Several late turnovers gave the Sun too many opportunities, and they finally put the game away.
In addition to the turnovers, the Sun offensive rebounding hurt the Lynx—Chiney Ogwumike in particular was ferocious on the glass, grabbing six offensive boards herself, several of them in key spots. For long stretches of the game they just were quicker to the ball than the Lynx, which led to extra possessions that haunted in the end.
It’s always difficult for the Lynx when their MVP candidate struggles. It was not Maya Moore’s night: She was in foul trouble throughout, shot only 3-12 from the field (1-6 from three), and was visibly frustrated. The Sun did a great job of not allowing her to catch the ball in her spots, and she was unable to get going all night. Surprisingly, the Lynx made their run in the third quarter and start of the 4th with Moore on the bench, but they really needed her to make plays down the stretch, and it just wasn’t there tonight.
Moore’s struggles highlight another problem that is concerning for the Lynx: When she’s not making threes, nobody is. The Lynx shot 1-8 from beyond the arc, while the Sun went 6-15. This is a common problem for the Lynx, who lack three point shooters other than Moore, and must compensate in other areas. Tonight they weren’t able to do so, because their usual efficiency inside the arc was disrupted by their sloppy ball handling and turnovers.
This is their second loss to the Sun in as many meetings this season, an odd circumstance given that the Sun are 9-16 and mired in the basement of the Eastern Conference overall. Whether there is any hangover from the Olympics involved we can’t know, but if there is, they need to shake it off quickly.
This loss puts the Lynx two games back in the loss column of the Los Angeles Sparks for the top seed in the playoffs, though they have relatively comfortable control of the 2nd spot in front of the New York Liberty.
The Lynx are back home Sunday evening against the Seattle Storm.