Sugar Rodgers got the ball on the move and launched.
Swish — again.
A couple of players in blue and white dropped their heads as the New York Liberty sharpshooter spun her head dramatically and strutted back on defense.
It was Rodgers’ seventh three-pointer of the night and gave the Liberty a lead in overtime — one that they wouldn’t lose, sending the Lynx to their third consecutive defeat.
Afterward, in a heated 86-second news conference, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve called perimeter defense “the biggest disappointment” of the season. Heading into Saturday night’s matchup with the San Antonio Stars, it’s clearly a topic on the minds of the Lynx coach and players, suddenly slumping after starting the season with a WNBA-record 13 wins in a row.
“There are great guards in this league,” point guard Lindsay Whalen said. “So it’s a fine line. When things are going well, you can reel off a lot of wins. When things aren’t going well, we’ve got to get back to the little things.”
Like getting tighter defensively, all the way around, Reeve said.
The Lynx defense has always been foremost about stopping the drive and protecting the paint. If that can’t be done effectively, players will pull off shooters to help. Then come the kick-outs and the open scores from the outside.
“It’s been on our minds,” Reeve said. “We don’t want to have to be in help rotation all the time. That’s been one of the areas we’ve been imploring our group to do better.”
The Lynx (13-3) have certainly been targeted: 21.6 percent of opponents’ points have come on three-point shots, third-most of any team. Early on, the Lynx were able to survive any lapses through an outpouring of offense, late adjustments or poor shooting by opponents.
In the past five games, opponents have shot 42.9 percent from beyond the arc — 46.2 percent in the past three — after managing just 21.9 percent in the previous five. “It’s really minor things,” shooting guard Seimone Augustus said. “Whatever our situation is in the pick-and-roll, the guards need to be able to execute it more efficiently than we have been and be a little bit more aggressive in that situation.”
Saturday has the appearance of an opportunity to get back on track. San Antonio (3-12) sits at the bottom of the Western Conference, and top shooter Kayla McBride is making just 32.6 percent of her three-point attempts this season.
But don’t expect to see much different in Reeve’s system. With success in the recent past, the Lynx will trust what propped them up early and what they believe will shine through again.
“These three games hurt,” Reeve said. “But we’re not going to change and rip apart what we do well. Can we do some things better to limit the three? Yes.
“The ones where they’re running off screens and we’re not beating them to spots or we’re taking the wrong path, those are the ones we’ve got to clean up. And I think when we do that we’ll be fine.”