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Aces 104, Lynx 89: Limping To The Finish

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Another Lynx loss as the playoffs loom.

Las Vegas Aces v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

With less than a week until the WNBA postseason begins, ideally the Minnesota Lynx would be rounding into form right about now. Ideally they’d maintain their perch amongst the league’s best defensive teams while shooting the lights out on offense. Ideally their all-world center would be returning to the lineup for a pre-playoff boost. Nothing has been ideal about how Minnesota is finishing this season.

The Lynx gave up 100+ points for the second time in three games as they racked up their third straight loss. Both of those century-mark games were achieved by two teams who seem to be on a collision course for the WNBA Finals. But Cheryl Reeve demands high-level defense, no matter the opponent.

Las Vegas is a truly unique team offensively. Even without All Star center Liz Cambage- one of the largest players in the WNBA, the Aces focus on scoring as close to the hoop as possible at all times. They lead the league in points in the paint and take the fewest threes per game by far. They’re also second in percentage of points coming from the free throw line. Minnesota has struggled mightily over this three game losing streak at keeping their opponent from getting paint points and failed yet again on Thursday.

“Bill Laimbeer coached teams are always going to score in the paint,” Reeve said postgame. “It’s the only team in the league that (emphasizes post scoring). They’re really good at it. It’s really hard to stop them. Im not sure what else we could have done other than hope for the three ball not to fall as much as it fell for them tonight.”

Unfortunately for Minnesota that Las Vegas three ball fell at a nearly historic level for the Aces. They shot 10-18 from beyond the arc. Those ten makes is the most they’ve had in a game since the team relocated from San Antonio in 2017. That kind of sharpshooting from distance is typical for Kayla McBride. She was 5-7 from three. But the other five three pointers came from two unusual suspects. Angel McCoughtry is playing fantastic for Vegas this season but is not known for her long-range acumen. She’s made 14 total threes on the season, three of them came in this game. The other player is former Lynx starting point guard Danielle Robinson. D-Rob is a hard-nosed, defensive minded guard who’s three point shot has been ignored by opposing defenses her entire career. Somehow Robinson was able to connect on two of her three attempts in this game. Those shots look extra good going through the net against your former team.

Napheesa Collier and the Lynx played well in the first half and hung around in a high-pace, offensive oriented game. Collier had 17 and seven through two quarters and was a perfect 3-3 from long range. The Aces changed all of that in the second half and came out of the locker room with a higher effort level on defense. They forced Minnesota into six third quarter turnovers and outscored the Lynx 25-15 which essentially put the game away. They also bottled up Collier, not allowing her to score at all in the second half.

Minnesota was simply outclassed in this game. Las Vegas is on a roll right now. They’ve now won four in a row and are on a mission to finish with one of the top two seeds in the playoffs in order to avoid any single-elimination games. Meanwhile the Lynx are now tied with Phoenix for the fourth playoff seed. They’ll likely need a win against Indiana in their regular season finale on Saturday to avoid slipping to fifth.

“I think the team understands where we’re at,” Reeve said after the game. “Theres no reason for us to be down or hanging our heads. We’re a team thats played well. Every team goes through tough stretches in the season. Every championship team I ever coached had a three game or four game losing streak. It’s how you handle those times. I have no concerns about this group handling that. They remain confident in what they’re doing. We’ll have to see how we finish the regular season on Saturday. Wherever we land seeding-wise we’ll be ready to play when the season starts.”

Notes

Before the game the Lynx announced a contract extension for Damiris Dantas. Reportedly its a two-year, $256,000 pact. Dantas will be in a Lynx uniform through he 2022 season.

Lexie Brown missed this game with concussion symptoms.

A’ja Wilson (aka Napheesa Collier’s podcast co-host) was sublime with 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and four blocks. The MVP race between Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson might be a photo-finish. Who ya got?

The Aces are one of the deepest teams in the league. Jackie Young, Dearica Hamby and Robinson gave their team a huge boost.

The Lynx can clinch the fourth seed if they beat Indiana and one of the following happens on Friday: Seattle beats Phoenix OR Atlanta beats Connecticut.

Next Up

Minnesota wraps up their regular season on Saturday against Indiana. They’ll be looking to right the ship and go into the playoffs with a win under their belt. Building momentum is the name of the game. Tip off is 5pm.

Watch: Fox Sports North