Near the end of Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve’s postgame news conference Tuesday night, she was asked if, at the midpoint of the 2018 season, she had a good idea of what kind of team she had this year.
“We have a really strong idea of who we are,” she said. “And how we need to play.”
It seemed a reasonable question considering the up-and-down nature of the first 17 games. The Lynx started the season 3-6, prompting a weeklong “mini training camp” of back-to-basics work that resulted in a seven-game winning streak.
Just when it seemed the Lynx were on the right track, they lost Tuesday to last-place Indiana 71-59 at Target Center. A team that had averaged 85.6 points during the winning streak posted its lowest total since June 2013 and their lowest total at home since 2010 — Reeve’s first year here and the only time the Lynx have failed to make the playoffs during her tenure.
Maya Moore, who had averaged 24.1 points and shot 47.1 percent during the winning streak, went 3-for-15 for nine points. Center Sylvia Fowles, who had averaged 18.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and shot 60 percent during the streak, was outplayed by Natalie Ochonwa. Fowles had eight points on 4-for-12 shooting and eight rebounds. It was the first time since Fowles came to Minnesota in the middle of the 2015 season that she and Moore had failed to score 10 points in the same game.
The question is, which is the real Lynx team?
We should start finding out quickly.
The Lynx begin the second half of their season the same way they started the first half, with a home game against the Los Angeles Sparks. After Tuesday’s loss the Lynx are 10-7, tied with Connecticut for fifth in the 12-team league, 2½ games behind co-leaders Phoenix and Seattle. The Sparks (12-6) are in third, Washington (10-6) in fourth.
Will fans see the team that beat both Phoenix (on the road) and Seattle during the winning streak? Or the team that started the season 3-6 and struggled again Tuesday? One thing is certain. The team won’t have a lot of time to get over Tuesday’s loss.
“We have to go back and watch some film,” Fowles said after Tuesday’s game. “There’s not much you can say. If you can’t get up for L.A., then we got a problem. Just regroup and refocus. Make sure we’re sticking together as a team.”
With the exception of Rebekkah Brunson — and, perhaps, Seimone Augustus — Tuesday was pretty much a complete system failure. The team shot 32.8 percent — its lowest since 2011. Lindsay Whalen was 1-for-5, Cecilia Zandalasini 2-for-9, Alexis Jones 1-for-7.
One of the things the Lynx did during their week between games was work on the idea of working around Fowles. Instead of trying to force the ball to Fowles, who was drawing two and three defenders, use that collapsing defense to create better shots for other players.
During the seven victories the Lynx averaged nearly 23 assists per game. Tuesday they had just 16, due both to a stagnant offense and a bunch of missed shots. The potential return of backup point guard Danielle Robinson — who missed the past two games — could help.
But the biggest job is likely flushing the frustration from the loss to Indiana and getting ready for an arch-rival.
“We’ll do whatever is necessary,” Moore said. “We have to figure out a way to get it done as a team, collectively playing at a high level together.”