Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, her voice hoarse from hours of trying to make herself heard over the screams of a franchise-record 17,414 fans at Target Center on Wednesday, was quick to say this:
Don’t give anyone a pass. Not her, not the players.
“We don’t make excuses,” she said. “That was a game we should have won.”
Her point: The Lynx’s 78-77 overtime loss to the Connecticut Sun cannot be blamed on Minnesota being without Seimone Augustus (knee surgery) or Lindsay Whalen (eye injury). Blame it instead on two crucial defensive lapses — one at the end of regulation and one in overtime — that prevented the Lynx (12-4) from going into the All-Star break on a five-game winning streak.
Both breakdowns were costly. Both resulted in wide-open three-pointers for Jasmine Thomas. One forced overtime, the second erased a two-point Lynx lead in the extra session.
Make one of those two stops and maybe people would have talked about how the Lynx managed to overcome injuries, Maya Moore’s 9-for-32 outing and the team shooting a collective 38.7 percent.
But, of course, they didn’t. Get stops, that is.
Moore worked a nice give-and-go with center Asjha Jones to score with 13.1 seconds left in regulation to put the Lynx up 69-66. After the game Reeve was kicking herself for not telling her players during the ensuing timeout to foul on the Sun’s next possession. At the very least to allow a two-point shot.
Instead, the Lynx helped out on a drive to the paint that resulted in Thomas getting a wide-open three-pointer to tie the score and force the OT.
With the Lynx up by two points late in overtime, the same thing happened. Left open, Thomas hit another three-pointer to give Connecticut (8-7) a one-point lead with 27.2 seconds left. Moore scored on a drive about 10 seconds later. But, out of a timeout, Camille Little hit a 15-footer with 8.5 seconds left. On the game’s final possession Moore missed a 6-foot baseline jumper.
“Give me that shot again and I bet I’ll make it,” said Moore, who set the franchise record with her eighth consecutive game with 20 or more points. She scored 25 points, 20 after halftime. Rebekkah Brunson scored 14 points with 15 rebounds. Jones scored 12 and Devereaux Peters, playing out of position at small forward, had 12.
But too many defensive lapses proved costly. Shekinna Stricklen scored 15 off the bench for the Sun, which got 41 points from its reserves. Elizabeth Williams had 10, Alex Bentley 12.
Playing without their starting backcourt, Reeve put Tricia Liston in the starting lineup. Recently acquired guard Renee Montgomery, who arrived in the Twin Cities Tuesday night suffering from a stomach virus, got some IV fluids in the morning and played 12 minutes off the bench.
But Reeve went mainly with the big lineup of Anna Cruz with Moore, Jones, Peters and Brunson for much of the game.
Afterward, Moore was wondering what might have been. And she wasn’t talking about injuries.
“I missed some shots I normally make,” she said. “Our defense wasn’t as tight as it needed to be at the end to close out the game. … That’s what happens in this league. Give ’em open shots and they’ll knock ‘em down.”
Connecticut ended a six-game losing skid while ending Minnesota’s four-game winning streak.
Now the Lynx — except for Moore — will get a much-needed rest over the break.
“There were a couple possessions we could have done differently at the end,” Brunson said. “But it shouldn’t have come down to one possession. We had several possession when we should have gotten stops and we didn’t.”
• Whalen’s right eye injury has been diagnosed as a hyphema, which means there is blood in the front of the injured eye. Reeve said Whalen will have at least two follow-up visits with doctors during the All-Star break. Reeve continues to be cautiously optimistic that Whalen will be able to return next week.
• The Lynx waived guard Jennifer O’Neill. She averaged 2.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.8 assists in 12 games for the Lynx this season.