On most nights, given the way the Lynx have played defense this year, 81 points against the league's top defensive team would have been enough.

But it wasn't.

The Lynx, for the most part, went push for shove with the WNBA's best team Friday at Target Center. But in the end, what the Lynx value most cost them in an 85-81 loss to Connecticut in front of an announced crowd of 8,803.

Defense.

In particular, defense in the paint.

The Sun (7-1) won its fifth straight game primarily by attacking — and scoring — again and again in the paint. Shooting 50%, the Sun scored 44 of its 85 points in the paint, getting 10 of its 17 fourth-quarter points there.

"I told our players we know what the formula for winning is,'' coach Cheryl Reeve said of her team, which held four of its first seven opponents under 40% shooting. "And it starts with defense. Unfortunately, protecting the paint and doing things we like to do just got lost on us tonight.''

The resulting pressure to score took a toll on the Lynx's developing offense, which produced only 14 points on 5-for-14 shooting with five turnovers in the final 10 minutes.

Still, the Lynx went at it with the first-place Sun for much of the game, which featured 15 lead changes and eight ties.

Odyssey Sims was a big part of that. She scored a game-high 25 points with six rebounds and three assists. Center Sylvia Fowles had 17 points and nine rebounds. Danielle Robinson scored 14 points.

Connecticut got 16 points each from Shekinna Stricklen, Alyssa Thomas and Jonquel Jones. Former University of Minnesota star Rachel Banham had 10 points, five in the fourth quarter.

It was the start of the fourth that doomed the Lynx. Down just a point, the Lynx opened the final quarter shooting 3-for-11.

On the other end, the Sun went 7-for-10, with five of those seven baskets coming in the paint. Thomas' drive for a layup with 3:04 left put the Sun up 85-75, the only double-figure lead in the game.

Out of a timeout, Damiris Dantas hit a three. Robinson hit one of two free throws, then she stole the ball and scored to pull the Lynx within four with 1:14 left.

They got no closer, turning the ball over on two of their final three possessions.

"We let 'em in the paint too much,'' Robinson said. "It was a combination of things. In transition, we just weren't matching up. They were getting easy looks.''

Said Fowles: "We fixed one problem, which was the turnovers. But, not being aware of the ball? Where the ball is coming from? I think we got attached to who was the shooters, who can shoot beyond the three-point line. We just got flustered with that.''

After starting 3-0, the Lynx have lost four of their past five games and three straight. The team will have Saturday off, then host Las Vegas on Sunday before getting almost a week off to rest and get in some much-needed practice time.

That could start with work on the defense.

"Relying on our team to execute, offensively, right now is now where our bread is buttered,'' Reeve said. "It's just something we have to improve upon.''