With typical bluntness, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve sat down after Sunday’s game against the Tulsa Shock, took a quick look at the final boxscore of her team’s 86-78 loss at Target Center and said:
“They did whatever they wanted to do whenever they wanted to do it.”
And that pretty much sums it up.
Led by their quick, shifty guards, the Shock broke down the Lynx defense over the final three quarters. The result: A lot of points scored in the paint and a lot of kick-outs for momentum-killing, wide-open three-pointers.
Skylar Diggins scored 26 points with eight assists and Riquna Williams came off the bench to score 17 for the Shock (6-1), which has won six consecutive games since an opening-day loss here to the Lynx. Sunday’s game matched two 5-1 teams. It was an early-season litmus test to see which team had the edge.
The result: It isn’t the Lynx.
At least not right now.
“We just got out of what we’ve been doing the last two games,” said Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen, who scored seven points and went a second game in a row without an assist. “We got, I think, pretty strung out and the lane was open for them. And they took advantage.”
The Shock scored 46 points in the paint, led by center Courtney Paris (16 points, 11 rebounds). The Lynx were outrebounded and turned the ball over 16 times, leading to 19 Shock points.
Rebekkah Brunson scored 18 points with nine rebounds for the Lynx, who also got 15 points from Seimone Augustus. Damiris Dantas came off the bench to score 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting. Maya Moore had 16 points, but was 5-for-14 from the field.
But the story of this game was defense.
The Lynx scored the first nine points of the game, and were on point defensively through the first 10 minutes. After that, as Reeve said, not so much.
The score was tied at the half. In the third quarter the Lynx appeared to be taking control. With the score tied at 52, Moore hit her only three-pointer of the game, then Brunson hit two free throws with 1:31 left in the quarter for a five-point Lynx lead.
But, in the final 31 seconds of the quarter the Lynx left two Shock players wide open on the perimeter. Diggins hit a three, and then a Lynx turnover resulted in a Jordan Hooper three.
The Shock had the lead, and never lost it again. Tulsa opened the fourth quarter on a 7-2 run. Tulsa shot 28.6 percent in the first quarter, 50.9 percent after that. In the fourth, Williams and Diggins combined for 17 points.
“Their guards are very aggressive,” Moore said. “They change directions, they have great skill getting to the rim.”
And, for one night, the Lynx couldn’t stop it. Brunson’s layup with 2:32 left pulled the Lynx within three. But then, all alone in the corner, Williams hit a three-pointer with 1:50 left that essentially ended it.
Reeve, who said she was “baffled” by her team’s inability to close out on that game-turning shot, was clearly unhappy after the game ended.
“Every team in the league knows where Tulsa is trying to put the ball,” Reeve said. “They penetrate to the paint. We didn’t provide much resistance in that area.”