Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve would like to end any semblance of suspense Tuesday at Target Center.
The Lynx are coming off a disappointing turnover-filled finish Sunday, when they had four cracks at scoring the tying or go-ahead basket in the final 2-plus minutes, only to fall to New York.
That loss essentially ended Minnesota’s bid to finish with the WNBA’s best record. But the team’s magic number for winning the Western Conference remains at one. That means one Lynx victory in their last two games — both against Seattle, including Tuesday night at Target Center — or a loss by Phoenix will clinch the conference crown.
Taking care of it at home would be best, of course. The Lynx have a history of difficult games in Seattle, where the regular season ends for them Friday. And they can’t count on Phoenix losing again. The Mercury will be host to Los Angeles on Friday, then plays Sunday at Tulsa.
Which is why star Maya Moore, clearly annoyed at the way she and the team finished up Sunday’s loss, noted that the team had another chance, at home, Tuesday.
“This is something we can clean up,” she said after the game. “Fortunately we have another game really soon.’’
The Lynx felt it had turned a corner after an Aug. 28 loss in New York. In two victories following that game Minnesota had combined consistent offense with strong defense while beating both Phoenix and Indiana at home.
Sunday? Reeve didn’t like the finish much, but she liked how hard her team played against the team with the WNBA’s best record. With the exception of a defensive letdown early in the fourth quarter the Lynx played the Liberty even. And, in a two-point game, Minnesota played good enough defense down the stretch to get several chances to win the game or force overtime.
But a victory will have to come without injured guards Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus, both out until at least the playoffs. However, a bright spot has been the play down low of center Sylvia Fowles and forward Rebekkah Brunson.
Brunson, who was dogged for a couple weeks by a nasty cold, is finally healthy and is starting to regain her offensive form. In Friday’s victory over Indiana, Brunson had 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting, grabbed 11 rebounds and did a nice job defensively on Tamika Catchings.
Sunday against New York she made all three of her shots, scored six points and had nine rebounds. While New York did a good job of limiting open mid-range jumpers — Brunson’s strength — Reeve said she would have liked to see Brunson shoot more.
This will be important, given the attention being paint to Fowles, who has averaged 16.8 points and 11.7 rebounds over her past six games.
“I will take the shots that are given to me,” said Brunson who, Sunday, became the third player in WNBA history to record 1,000 offensive rebounds. “But getting the ball inside [to Fowles] and finding people in good scoring areas is important for us.’’
Brunson’s 1.8 assists per game this season is double her career average. But her ability to knock down the midrange jumper is important with Augustus and Whalen out. It would make teams pay for double-teaming Fowles and also open things up more for Moore.
“We’re getting better and better,” Brunson said of she and Fowles playing together. “And we’re going to continue to get each other in the best positions possible.’’