After a three-game road trip that concluded Tuesday night in Texas, the Minnesota Lynx returned home for a brief one-game homestand while welcoming in the Connecticut Sun to Target Center.
The Lynx, still one of two teams in the WNBA looking to crack into the win column, weren’t able to find their first win of the year while debuting their new Rebel Edition uniforms, falling to Connecticut 89-84 to drop to 0-6 overall.
“We need to learn how to win. We keep getting in these situations where we’re so close. We could be 4-2 right now, easily. Those games are slipping through our fingers,” Napheesa Collier said post-game. “We have to, as a team, change our mindset otherwise we are going to continue to lose. I’ve never been in this situation, it’s tough. It sucks being 0-6.”
Minnesota and Connecticut went neck-and-neck in the first half of their first matchup of the season, carrying a 47-47 tie into halftime at Target Center. In the opening frame, the Lynx went a perfect 14-for-14 from the free throw line and held an advantage on the glass despite the Sun outscoring Minnesota 32-16 in the paint through two quarters.
In the second half, the Sun jumped out to an early lead out of the break and began the frame on a 12-0 run to lead by as much as 15 points in the third quarter. Minnesota attempted to come back late but wasn’t able to even things up down the stretch.
“For me, it’s why do you get down 15 and you don’t play defense in the third at all. They scored 10 points in three minutes and we didn’t score,” Cheryl Reeve said of the third quarter where the Lynx fell behind. “You’ll have to ask (the players) if they take anything away from that, I don’t.”
Collier’s Career Night Leads Balanced Offense
Despite the disappointment of coming up short, Collier led a balanced Lynx offense behind a career night. Collier led all players in Thursday’s game in scoring, finishing with a career-high 30 points, four assists, two rebounds and one block in all 40 minutes. The 30-point outing is the first of Collier’s career.
“It’s great somebody gets 30 against a good defensive team,” Reeve said after the game. “But when you don’t win because you don’t do the little things, it’s hard to celebrate that.”
Collier was one of four Lynx players in double-figures on the night, joined by Kayla McBride with 12 points, four rebounds and three assists, Tiffany Mitchell with 12 points and Jessica Shepard with another double-double of 11 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Juhász Makes First WNBA Start
With Minnesota rookie Diamond Miller out of the game due to an ankle injury suffered Tuesday against Dallas, fellow rookie Dorka Juhász got the nod in the starting lineup while making the first start of her professional career.
Rather than going with Lindsay Allen in the starting five as we saw earlier in the season, Reeve and the Lynx coaching staff decided to stick with Tiffany Mitchell at point guard while placing Juhász in the starting lineup at center to match up with a taller Connecticut starting unit.
“Dorka did great. That was big for us,” Reeve said. “That’s one thing we are trying to do this year is get players like her some really valuable time and experience. I thought she handled it great. This is a hard team to play against. ... I thought Dorka was a bright spot for us.”
In her first WNBA start, Juhász finished with seven points, nine rebounds, two blocks and one assist in 37 minutes. Against some of the top post talent in the WNBA, the UConn product stepped up for Minnesota to offer the Lynx with another option in the paint.
“I was really happy Dorka got her first start today. She came in, she wasn’t timid and she did a great job for us,” Shepard said of Juhász. “I’m happy for Dorka and she played very well today.”
Sun Own the Paint
One key to Minnesota being able to come away with a win against Connecticut was how the Lynx would defend the talented post trio of Alyssa Thomas, Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner in the paint.
Minnesota was able to take care of business on the boards, out-rebounding Connecticut 32-29, but the Sun owned the paint which ended up being one of the difference-makers. Connecticut outscored Minnesota 52-26 in points in the paint, which the Lynx admitted was in part due to the lack of execution on their end defensively.
“They pressured us and we just didn’t get the execution that we wanted. Your defense has to help you and this was just another game where it wasn’t happening,” Reeve said. “Fifty-two points in the paint is not an ingredient for success.”
Thomas did it all to help lead the Sun, finishing with a near triple-double of 16 points, 16 assists (career-high) and nine rebounds in all 40 minutes. Jones added 12 points and Bonner tallied 13 points and five rebounds for Connecticut, which improved to 5-1 overall.
Back on the Road
The Lynx just wrapped up a tough three-game road trip leading up to Thursday’s game at home, but they will now hit the road again for a pair of games against two more tough opponents.
Minnesota will open up a two-game road trip on Saturday against Washington before traveling to battle the New York Liberty on Wednesday in Brooklyn. The schedule hasn’t been kind to the Lynx through six games and it will get even harder the next few games on the road.
“You gotta keep going, there’s no end in sight. You go back on the road,” Reeve said on where the team goes from here. “You have to win your home games. ... It’s not ok. Our fans adore us, they expect different from us. That’s what I’m frustrated with, it’s not ok.”
Minnesota will get back on the road this weekend to face the Washington Mystics in the nation’s capital on Saturday. The game will be the first meeting of the season between the Lynx and Mystics and will tip off at 6 PM on Bally Sports North.