With yet another fourth-quarter fade, the Lynx sailed deeper into uncharted water Friday night at Target Center. A team used to winning lost again, this time 95-85 to a Phoenix team that came to town on a three-game losing streak.
And now it's the defending WNBA champion Lynx (2-4) who have lost three in a row, and two of three at home this young season. It's the Lynx trying to figure out how to right the ship as it's about to sail out of town on a very difficult road trip.
"Just because we've done something in the past, it gives you zero guarantee it's going to happen again," Maya Moore said, after scoring 25 points. "And that's life. That's what we're experiencing."
Friday, again, it was the fourth quarter. If there is one constant in this stop-and-start season so far it is closing out games. But, frustratingly, it never seems to be the same problem.
Take this game. Really from start to finish the Lynx didn't stop the Phoenix threesome of Diana Taurasi (29 points), DeWanna Bonner (24) and Brittney Griner (21 points, nine rebounds), who, with some trapping help from a forward, did a good job of frustrating Lynx center Sylvia Fowles to start the game.
The Mercury (3-3) shot 53.8 percent. The Lynx let their opponent get hot early, and Phoenix never cooled down. The Lynx were able to stay with the Mercury offensively.
Until they didn't.
"This was not, defensively, what it was going to take to be successful," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "Their big three, obviously, had their way with us. From the very get-go. The fire got lit. Bonner, she did everything she likes to do. She had six layups in the first half. That was the issue."
This was the first time since 2010 that these two teams faced each other with losing records. So there was the expected level of intensity in a game that saw 12 lead changes and eight ties.
But the Lynx offense finally slowed down. Not so much for Phoenix.
Trailing by five after three quarters, the Lynx scored the first five points of the fourth to tie it at 75-75 with 8:42 left on Tanisha Wright's three-pointer.
But, out of a time out: Taurasi.
Given consecutive open three-point looks, the five-time WNBA scoring champion hit both, kick-starting an 8-0 run that put Phoenix in control for good.
The Lynx? They cooled off. After shooting 54.3 percent in the first half, they were just 12-for-32 (37.5) in the second.
And now the Lynx are 2-4 with consecutive road games at Los Angeles, Washington and Connecticut, three of the top four teams in the league entering Friday's games.
"Not the kind of waters we're used to in the last seven years," Lindsay Whalen said. "But, like coach said, every journey's different. This is not what we want, not what we're trying for. But, at the end of the day, it's about getting wins as a team and figuring it out. … It's just, collectively, figuring it out."
Four of five Lynx starters scored in double figures — Fowles had 16 points and 11 rebounds, Rebekkah Brunson had 10 and nine. Wright scored 15 off the bench. But no Lynx player finished the game with a positive plus-minus rating.
It's still early, but things need to change quickly.
"We definitely have things to work on," Fowles said. "We have to go back and figure it out.''