MINNEAPOLIS – The massive fluctuations of the Minnesota Lynx took a new form Sunday night in an 83-64 drubbing by the Connecticut Sun at Target Center.
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A seven-game winning streak left the impression that the Lynx (12-10) had cleared their early season hurdles. With their fourth loss in the last six games, the dynastic Minnesota is looking for answers in places they seldom explore.
“We get off to the good start and things go well, and then all of a sudden, we get punched in the mouth a little bit and we can’t find a way to respond,” said Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve. “We are in this new stretch of not being who we want to be.”
Every facet of the game was dominated by the Sun (12-10), but rebounds and perimeter shooting stood out the most. On the boards, Connecticut had a 41-27 edge. On the outside, they hit 12 of 25 three-pointers to fuel a rout where they led by as much as 29.
“A lot of our baskets came from either dribble penetration into the paint, or catches into the paint, and then playing back out against all that congestion,” said Sun head coach Curt Miller.
Virtually everyone with considerable shooting range got in on the act. Morgan Tuck scored a game-high 15 points off the bench. Jonquel Jones pitched in with 12, and Rachel Banham hit three triples on her way to 11 points. The most telling stat? Connecticut’s bench outscored Minnesota’s starters 48-36.
Numbers weren’t necessary to illustrate the angst on Minnesota’s end. The absence of Rebekkah Brunson, who is still nursing a thigh injury, took away a hustler who can get rebounds and space the floor with three-pointers. Ball control was hampered by unforced errors, and the Lynx have yet to find a consistent bench presence. Put them all together, and opponents can concentrate on Sylvia Fowles and Maya Moore with little risk. Frustrations from those two were evident in the post-game scrum, punctuated by Moore’s reticence.
“It’s up to us. It’s in our control so we’ll figure it out,” she said.
The sentiment is understandable from a pair of athletes who built a reputation for meeting high standards. Until this season, the Lynx were the prime example of cohesion in the WNBA. Everyone recognized their roles and found a way to flourish. Showcasing strengths and covering weaknesses was part of the routine. Defeating them required near-perfect execution.
Minnesota hasn’t lost those traits altogether, but the mood has changed. Postgame locker room sessions are more sparsely populated, contrasting from the jovial setting in years past. Reeve brought up mental toughness following the loss to the Aces, and continued that discussion after losing to the Sun.
“You can only do so much. You can’t give someone will. That’s internal,” she said. “They’ve done an awful lot together and it gets harder and harder to be them and I think we’re seeing that. They’re giving it everything that they have. Obviously right now, the last couple of games, it’s not good enough.”
Despite the aggravating nature of the 2018 season, the Lynx are still in the hunt for a semifinal playoff berth. A playoff seed isn’t the most immediate concern, but Fowles was straightforward regarding a fix to her team’s woes.
“It’s defense,” she said. “We haven’t been able to get that done in the games that we sucked at. So defense is what we need to tackle and go from there.”