UNCASVILLE, CONN. – If the Lynx played with as much fire as coach Cheryl Reeve showed in her postgame speech, it might have been a different outcome.
Instead, the Lynx let an opportunity to improve their WNBA playoff position slip away in a 96-79 loss to the Connecticut Sun on Friday in front of an announced 7,089 fans at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The loss means Minnesota (17-16) will be the seventh seed in the playoffs and will play a first-round road game Tuesday.
The Lynx, who have reached the Finals six times since 2011 and won it for the fourth time last season, limp toward Sunday’s regular-season home finish with Washington having dropped three in a row and six of eight.
“This is that type of season, being able to overcome whatever is thrown at us, and that’s what we’ll do.” said guard Maya Moore, who finished with 12 points — six below her season average (18.3) — seven rebounds and eight assists.
Reeve’s biggest peeve after the game was the discrepancy in free throws. The Lynx went to the line just six times, making them all, while the Sun (20-13) went 18-for-23, including 12-for-12 in the second half.
“How does one of the teams that fouls the least in the league commit  fouls to a team that commits a ton of fouls?” Reeve asked. “They fouled nine times in the game and we shot six free throws.
“We shot one free throw in the second half — one!”
The second half is where things unraveled for the Lynx, who led 46-43 at the break. Seimone Augustus’ jumper gave the Lynx their last lead, 48-47, with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
“When I took over this job, we talked about building a franchise and building a culture here that could play and eventually be built for championships, and we wanted to model ourselves after Minnesota,” Connecticut coach Curt Miller said.
Jonquel Jones (26 points) hit a three-pointer to put Connecticut ahead 50-48, and the Sun offense was too much for Minnesota from there.
Jones scored 20 points in the second half, going 4-for-5 on three-pointers, and the Sun shot 56.2 percent from the field — a season high for an opponent — compared to the Lynx’s 38.5.
Sylvia Fowles scored 25 points to lead the Lynx, but 16 came before halftime. In the first half, she set a franchise record opening 7-for-7 on field goals. She scored 10 straight points in the first quarter to give the Lynx a 28-22 lead.
Minnesota shot 14-for-17 from the field in the opening quarter to lead by six, but Fowles picked up her second foul with 22 seconds left and the offense went with her to the bench.
“At the end of the day you have to score with this team [Connecticut], which we did in the first half,” Reeve said. “We weren’t as aggressive in the early part of the third quarter as I thought we’d be because we knew Connecticut would turn it up.”
Augustus finished with 12 points for the Lynx, and Cecilia Zandalasini had 10.
Three other Sun players scored in double figures: Alyssa Thomas (18), Layshia Clarendon (14) and Courtney Williams (13).
Lindsay Whalen, who is retiring at the end of the season, was honored before the game. She was the Sun’s first-round draft pick in 2004 and was traded before the 2010 season to the Lynx.
Whalen had six points in 11½ minutes.