With injuries and age taking their toll on the Lynx, coach Cheryl Reeve essentially is trying to reshape her team, just days before the regular season ends.
And that’s not easy.
Forward Rebekkah Brunson is out with a concussion. Point guard Danielle Robinson is out indefinitely with a sprained ankle. Sunday at Target Center, for the first time since her first game in the WNBA, Lindsay Whalen did not start a game in which she played.
Oh, and the Lynx lost 81-72 to league-leading Seattle.
It was a night in which the Lynx offense struggled. So badly, actually, that a rather strong defensive effort to start with eventually went by the wayside, too. But at this point, with the probability of one — and maybe two — single-elimination playoff games looming, Reeve is trying to find a new look with what she has at hand.
“We’re trying to find ourselves as we head into the playoffs,’’ Reeve said after the Lynx (17-14) fell to 8-7 at home this season and dropped into seventh place with three games left. “And we’re trying to find what we’re going to look like.’’
That means having Whalen come off the bench, with Tanisha Wright starting. That means hoping Cecilia Zandalasini can get over a sudden slump — she was 0-for-8 Sunday — and be the kind of shooter who will give space to the Lynx offense, particularly Maya Moore and center Sylvia Fowles.
That look had worked in road victories at Chicago and Las Vegas. It didn’t work Sunday, with the Lynx shooting about 37 percent while falling behind by 10 early in the fourth quarter.
Fowles scored 28 points with 13 rebounds. But she also had five turnovers and had her shot blocked a number of times in the first half. Moore scored 12, Seimone Augustus 13.
The Storm (24-8) got 21 points from Natasha Howard, who also had three blocks, and 17 points and 17 rebounds from presumptive MVP Breanna Stewart, including two straight three-point daggers in the fourth quarter.
After resting Whalen the past two games — both victories — Reeve made the decision to bring her off the bench Sunday, with Whalen’s full support. Reeve said she feels Wright is able to play for longer stretches and bring toughness to the perimeter defense.
“If it’s what’s best for the team, that’s what I’ll do,’’ Whalen said. “I’m always going to support Coach’s decision. I’ll just try to have a positive impact on the team.’’
After a tough first half, Fowles was better in the second. Down 10 early in the fourth quarter, the Lynx clawed back within four on Wright’s three-pointer — her only basket Sunday — with 6:45 left in the game.
But, out of the timeout, Seattle went on a 16-2 run, launched by consecutive threes by Stewart and one by Sue Bird.
“We didn’t have the grit to dig in and guard their best player, and Stewart gets two [threes] and Bird, their best three-baller, we leave her open,’’ Reeve said. “We didn’t string together enough periods of time when we were mentally and physically tough on offense as well as defense.’’
It was a tough way to start a home stretch that had three of the Lynx’s final four games at home. The Lynx will take another shot at it Tuesday, at home, against Chicago.
“We just have to keep pushing through the tough stretches,’’ Moore said. “We have to be able to put together offensive and defensive combos together to get runs. You have to put scores together. We didn’t do that tonight.”