You can forgive Cheryl Reeve for her ambivalence following Tuesday night’s game.
In four quarters against Dallas, in one 40-minute stretch of clock time, the Lynx coach had seen her team play perhaps its best basketball of the season and its worst. There were times when the ball was moving like a blur and other times when it and her players seemed stuck in place. A time when shots fell and a whole quarter in which the clang of the rim could be heard throughout Target Center.
“I guess I’m happy to be talking about this after a win,” Reeve said.
That, of course, is the bottom line. The Lynx built a lead as big as 21 points and led by 18 entering the fourth quarter. And while the Wings managed to pull within four late, the Lynx held on for a 91-83 victory, their second in a row.
The victory was No. 200 for Reeve in the regular season. She became the eighth coach in WNBA history to reach that mark.
That’s the good news.
But, after shooting nearly 55 percent and getting 17 assists on 23 field goals with just three turnovers in the first half, the Lynx shot 24 percent in the second, including 1-for-11 in the fourth quarter when the score got far too close for anyone’s comfort.
“I gave myself a heart attack,” joked center Sylvia Fowles. “I think we kind of lulled ourselves to sleep there in the second half. We’re happy with the win, but we definitely have some things to clear up.”
On Friday night, the Lynx, now 5-6, visit red-hot Phoenix. Two quarters won’t be good enough there.
Fowles was rather amazing. After collecting 23 points, 20 rebounds and five steals in a victory over Dallas earlier in the season, and relishing the opportunity to go up against Wings center Liz Cambage, Fowles battled early foul trouble to finish with a stats line of 19 points, 17 rebounds and five steals Tuesday. Maya Moore scored 21 points, with seven assists and four boards.
But even with them there was inconsistency. The two combined to go 4-for-17 in the second half, 1-for-7 in the fourth quarter.
Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 17, including a drive for a score with 20.7 seconds left that drew the Wings within four — as close as they got. Cambage had 16 points and nine rebounds.
But the Lynx did enough. Seimone Augustus, held out of Saturday’s win with a sore hamstring, scored 16. Backup guard Danielle Robinson had 15 points — she made all 11 of her free throws — and had four assists.
Her two free throws after Diggins-Smith’s last basket put the game away. Rebekkah Brunson, forced to guard Cambage for much of the second quarter after Fowles picked up her third foul, was very good, too.
But again, that finish Tuesday …
“It’s a trend,” Reeve said. She’s right. The same thing happened Saturday against New York. The Lynx have won two in a row because their leads were big enough to withstand late stumbles. But for a team scrambling to reach .500, Reeve wants more.
“That’s what I told our team,” she said. “We won the game. We should be happy with that. But I don’t want them to be satisfied.”
Reeve said she has seen the same thing in practice, namely her team not finishing strong.
“We have to be able to execute when things aren’t ideal,” said Moore, who needed 25 shots to score 21 points. “We have to control what we can control, especially in the fourth quarter.”