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Mystics 86, Lynx 79: Fourth Quarter Fail

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Washington wins and becomes the first team to clinch a 2019 playoff spot.

Five days ago Minnesota went to Washington and got blown out. Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve called it one of her team’s worst defensive performances of the season. Things were different at Target Center on Friday night as these squads squared up for a rematch. The victor remained unchanged, but the tenor and level of competition was much different.

Through three quarters the Lynx held their own against the Mystics. The league-leading Washington offense was nowhere to be found. For much of the first half their free-flowing scoring attack was reduced to a low-efficiency mess. Uncharacteristically (Washington leads the WNBA in fewest turnovers per game), the Mystics were kicking the ball all over the gym. Passes sailed into the first row and their team didn’t appear to be in sync.

“I thought we were trying to force stuff against their pressure a little bit, Washington head coach Mike Thibault said after the game. “They were overplaying every place on the floor in the first half. And I don’t think we did a good job adjusting early. They’re one of the more physical teams in the league.”

While the Mystics were turning the ball over, the Lynx were scoring in the paint. Odyssey Sims, Sylvia Fowles and Danielle Robinson were able to get into the lane for buckets, or free throws. Minnesota’s 20-21 FT performance was big for their offense. Washington’s help defense left much to be desired as they got burned on lobs over the top to Fowles or Napheesa Collier.

Unfortunately for Minnesota there are four quarters in a basketball game. The six point Lynx lead was vaporized two minutes into the final frame. Suddenly offense was hard to come by for Minnesota. According to Thibault this was due to the Mystics picking up their defensive intensity.

“We got a couple steals, deflections, pressured them a little bit more. Our big lineup helped. They were killing us on the boards for a little while. We got a momentum by getting some stops three or four times in a row.”

Crunch time has not been kind to the Lynx this season and Friday night was no different. After tying the game at 70 with 4:28 remaining in the game, Minnesota was outscored 16-9 the rest of the way. When it was all said and done, the Mystics won the fourth quarter 30-17.

There’s no shame in losing to the league’s best team. But as the Lynx attempt to improve their playoff seed it does sting a bit to be relatively close to a big upset win only to lose it in the very end. With seven tough games remaining Reeve had an appropriately optimistic message after the game.

“I like where we are. We didn’t win this game. Its not like we didn’t show up, its not like we didn’t do some really good things, we didn’t win the game. We gotta go to Seattle and try to win that game.”

Notes:

New WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert was in attendance at Target Center. She’s making the rounds visiting each of the 12 franchises in her first summer on the job. She held a quick halftime scrum with media. There are high hopes around the league in her ability to grow the WNBA specifically when it comes to corporate sponsorship dollars.

Seimone Augustus started the game for the Lynx, played a few minutes in each of the first two quarters and caught a DNP-CD in the second half. When asked about this postgame Reeve kept her reply short, Augustus’ absence was not injury related.

Robinson had another great game off the bench. She’s over qualified for her current role but she’s making the best of it. In 25 minutes Robinson scored 14 points including 6/6 from the free throw line and had five assists.

Fowles passed former Lynx Katie Smith for 13th on the WNBA’s all-time list for field goals made.

Next Up:

The Lynx get back on the road for a two-game west coast road trip. They’ll kick it off by facing Seattle on Sunday. Tip off is 6pm CT.

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