From start to finish Friday at Target Center, it just didn’t feel right.
The Lynx lost at home again, 85-77 in front of 9,813 fans. For the defending league champions, it was the fourth home loss in 10 games, this time to the streaking Las Vegas Aces, who won for the fourth time in a row. The Aces won the game, and perhaps the gamesmanship within the game.
(But more on that in a bit.)
Friday was further proof about these 2018 Lynx. If neither Maya Moore nor Sylvia Fowles plays well, the Lynx lose. It has become fact, undeniable.
The Lynx (12-9) were outscored, outrebounded, outrun, outexecuted. Moore finished with 12 points on 5-for-15 shooting, Fowles seven points on 2-for-9 shooting, though she did have a whopping 17 boards. The Aces ran big after big at Fowles, keeping her from getting the ball where she likes it. Moore missed shot after shot. As a result the Lynx fell to 0-7 in games in which neither Moore nor Fowles scores 20 points. The 19 points the two combined for was the second-lowest total of the season for them.
“We didn’t have balance,’’ said Reeve, in a rather short postgame news conference. “Late for screens, don’t set screens, don’t have aggression from our perimeter players.’
Point guard Lindsay Whalen had one of her best games in nearly two seasons, scoring 22 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Seimone Augustus, the other guard, had 14.
But the Lynx couldn’t get stops — the Aces shot nearly 50 percent — and couldn’t get a consistent offense going, shooting 29-for-73.
“It’s just disappointing we’re not coming up with home wins,’’ Fowles said. “But it’s little things, things that are correctable.’’
Playing without power forward Rebekkah Brunson, the Lynx used a committee approach to guard outstanding rookie forward A’ja Wilson, holding her to 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting. But she had 15 rebounds, five assists, four blocks. Kayla McBride had 24 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. And Tamera Young scored nine of her 13 points in the fourth quarter, thwarting the Lynx’s comeback bid.
It was strange from the start. Reeve and Aces coach Bill Laimbeer go way back; she was his assistant during two championship seasons with the Detroit Shock. They are both friendly but competitive. After the Lynx won in Las Vegas last month, the Lynx took joy at poking fun at Aces guard Kelsey Plum for calling them old. Gamesmanship? The Lynx have a tradition of not winning the opening tip of games, for reasons perhaps both strategic and superstitious. Well, Friday Fowles deliberately tipped the ball to Plum, who — apparently on purpose — let it go out of bounds. When asked afterward about it, Plum offered a simple “no comment.’’
The Lynx led by a point after a quarter, and were up five midway through the second. But the Aces finished the half strong, took a three-point halftime lead and never trailed again. Down eight, the Lynx got within four twice in the final three minutes, the first time on Moore’s 13-foot jumper, then on Whalen’s floater with 1:02 left. After the first time, Young scored. The second time Wilson sealed the game with a driving layup.
And now the Lynx have started their three-game homestand — the team’s longest of the season — with a loss.
“Vegas was good, for sure,’’ Reeve said. “They were really good on offense. … On both sides, they got to play exactly to their identity. And that’s disappointing.’’