There’s a reason Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve brought so much intensity to her postgame interview Sunday: Because her team brought so little of it in the second half.
Minnesota’s three-game winning streak ended with a thud at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., losing 78-75 to an Atlanta team (3-11) that had dropped 10 in a row.
After getting off to strong start, after leading by 14 points in the second quarter and by 11 at the half, the Lynx (9-4) were outworked, outhustled, outrebounded and outdone in the second half. They fell to a team with a losing record for the first time this season.
“We’re not going to win any games unless we defend,’’ said Reeve, who was clearly unhappy. “And we didn’t defend. We had a season low in deflections, we only had two three-in-a-row stops, which happened in the first quarter. We got none the rest of the way.’’
In a tale of two halves, the Lynx held the Dream down until halftime, then saw Atlanta shoot 19-for-35 and outrebound them 21-12 in the second half.
In a mighty run that started in the final minute of the second quarter, the Dream went from trailing 41-27 to leading 61-57 with 8:44 left in the game. The Lynx used an 8-0 run to go up five, but Atlanta scored the next 10 points — with two Betnijah Laney baskets sandwiching threes from Shekinna Stricklen and Blake Dietrick — and never trailed again.
“We started off really strong,’’ said Napheesa Collier, who scored 18 points with eight rebounds. “So I don’t know why we got lulled into that, and why we didn’t come out with that same aggression in the other three quarters. Our execution wasn’t very good, and I thought we didn’t have the same energy we started the game with.’’
Lexie Brown scored 17 points and Crystal Dangerfield had 14 for the Lynx, who shot 44.7% in the first half, but just 37.5% in the second, making just two of 12 three-pointers.
For Atlanta, the reverse.
Monique Billings and Laney each scored 16 for the Dream; they combined for 27 second-half points. Courtney Williams had 14 and Dietrick 13 off the bench.
The Lynx got within two three times in the final two-plus minutes. After a steal, Dangerfield was fouled and made two free throws with 18.9 seconds left to draw the Lynx within 77-75.
At the other end Billings made one of two free throws with 16.6 seconds left. Out of a timeout, the Lynx were unable to get a good shot off. Dangerfield dribbled down the clock and was forced to take an off-balance three-pointer that didn’t come close.
“We looked like we were on our heels a little bit,’’ Reeve said. “But, again, credit Atlanta’s physical defense. They turned the tables on us. We were pretty darned aggressive at halftime. They turned the tables, got physical and aggressive with us.’’
The Lynx have Los Angeles on Wednesday — the Sparks have won seven in a row — followed by a rematch with Atlanta on Friday.
“We need to emphasize doing the little things correctly,’’ Collier said. “Obviously, things move really fast. You have to get over losses — wins and losses — really quickly. But there are things we want to change like how hard we’re working. We want to make sure that’s never a question again.’’
The Star Tribune is not traveling to Florida for NBA and Lynx coverage. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.