Before the game started, but after her No. 13 jersey, hanging from the Target Center rafters, was revealed, Lindsay Whalen offered up this opinion:
She was glad her jersey, officially retired before Saturdays’ game with Los Angeles, was hanging next to the banner commemorating Minnesota’s 2017 WNBA title. That was the year they beat the Sparks in the final, she noted. It was her favorite.
“Let’s beat ’em again today,” she said.
A day that started with a nod to the Lynx’s championship past ended with an 89-85 loss, highlighting an ongoing problem for the present Lynx: inconsistent offense.
In a game of runs, the Lynx had too many stretches of inefficient offense and it cost them.
Afterward Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she was encouraged by her team’s resiliency; the Lynx rallied from L.A.’s 12-4 start and from a 13-point, second-quarter deficit.
But, after an 18-4 run put them up seven with 2:43 left in the third quarter, the Lynx went 2-for-9 with three turnovers over the next 10½ minutes during a 20-7 Sparks run that put Los Angeles up 72-66 with 8:11 left in the game.
The Sparks never trailed again. Down 10 late, the Lynx got to within one on Lexie Brown’s desperation banked three-pointer with 1:11 left, but missed shots and missed free throws down the stretch were costly.
“I don’t like our offensive execution,” Reeve said. “There’s not a whole lot that I like.”
It was a loss made more difficult when rookie Jessica Shepard — a key player off the bench — injured her right knee and left the game with 1:42 left. She will have an MRI Sunday.
Brown hit on five of eight three-pointers on the way to a career-high 21 points. Sylvia Fowles had 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Rookie Napheesa Collier scored 18 with eight rebounds and five assists.
But the Lynx couldn’t stop Sparks reserve Riquna Williams, who scored 25 points, or starting guard Chelsea Gray, who had 21.
“Our offense is trying to find itself,” Fowles said. “It will come, with repetition, knowing where we’re all going to be at the right time. We’re a little inconsistent in how we throw the ball to certain players. Some of that will come in time.”
Until that happens, the turnovers — another 21 Saturday — will be an issue. The Sparks scored 22 points off those turnovers, including nine of their fourth-quarter points.
“We had some turnovers that really killed us at the end,” Collier said. “Just not executing what we needed to offensively.”
And the Sparks made them pay. Gray (eight) and Williams (four) combined for 12 of L.A.’s 22 fourth-quarter points.
Still, it was a one-point game with 1:11 left after Brown’s banked three.
But Gray hit a step-back two-pointer. Out of a timeout Collier was fouled and made one of two free throws — the Lynx were 2-for-6 from the free throw line in the final two minutes. Gray scored again with 11 seconds left, icing the game.
“We couldn’t pull it out for Whay,” Reeve said. “Another night with 21 turnovers, at key times.
“A team that struggled to execute offensively. … Overall, their ball pressure bothered us, at every position. Nothing was easy for us.”