Since the preseason started, even with a bunch of new faces, the Lynx defended.
While starting the regular season 3-0 the Lynx held all three opponents — Chicago, Seattle and Dallas — to 40% shooting or under on their field goal attempts. They outrebounded those three opponents by a total of 39.
Then Tuesday happened.
In a rematch with the Storm in Seattle, so many things the Lynx had done so well while remaining the WNBA’s last undefeated team — pressuring the ball on the perimeter, help defense, limiting drives into the paint an denying the entry pass — stopped happening in an 84-77 loss.
“It seems like we forgot what our identity was,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “We didn’t do a whole lot well, defending three-ballers, screens. We didn’t fight entries. All the things we identified, we didn’t pay attention to, for whatever reason.”
Lynx opponents scored an average of 66.3 points and shot 38% in the first three games. Tuesday the Storm made 32 of 54 shots, a 59.3% clip that is the fourth-best by a Lynx opponent in franchise history. The Storm also made seven of 13 three-pointers and outrebounded the Lynx 28-17.
The Lynx struggled much of the game preventing Natasha Howard and Alysha Clark from flashing into the paint and getting good opportunities.
Down 10 points at halftime, the Lynx rallied to take a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter. They still led by a point with just over four minutes left. But then the Lynx offense went south, too. The Storm took advantage of a stretch in which the Lynx turned the ball over four of five times to pull away. The Storm finished the game on a 10-2 run.
Still, the overall offensive numbers were pretty good. The Lynx shot 50.9% overall, made eight of 17 three-pointers and only had 14 turnovers.
But, that defense ...
“It was just a lack of focus,” Reeve said. “I don’t know why. We weren’t connected, we weren’t locked in.”
Unfortunately the Lynx won’t be able to get a practice in before Thursday’s home game with Phoenix.
Minnesota flew back from Seattle on Wednesday. Reeve said there will be an extended video review before Thursday’s morning shootaround where the problems from the Seattle game will be examined and, as Reeve said, “put to bed.”
Then the shootaround will focus on a Phoenix team that, with star guard Diana Taurasi out following back surgery, has started the season 1-1, including an impressive victory over Las Vegas, a team viewed as a title contender.
If the Lynx can’t get their pick-and-roll defense back in order they’ll likely have a difficult time with Mercury forward DeWanna Bonner, who enters the game second in the league in scoring (21.5), and center Brittney Griner, who is fifth (18.0). Like the Lynx, all five Phoenix starters are averaging in double figures in scoring.
“We can’t let Bonner to get into the paint,” Reeve said. “But we have their attention now. We will defend the paint [Thursday].”