Late in their home opener Sunday at Target Center, as the Lynx were finally making a push to make a one-sided game look competitive, four of the five players on the floor were reserves.
On the bench: Sylvia Fowles, Angel McCoughtry, Aerial Powers and Rachel Banham.
"We didn't show up today,'' Fowles said after a 78-66 loss to a Washington Mystics team playing without Elena Delle Donne. "And that's kind of depressing.''
Two games into the regular season, after an 0-2 start that includes two double-figure losses, the Lynx are struggling mightily to find their way.
Sunday, in a tale of two halves, the Lynx were outscored 47-23 in the first half, then they out-scored Washington 43-31 in the second.
That included a 21-6 start to the fourth quarter, led by Jessica Shepard and backup guards Odyssey Sims and Yvonne Turner, that trimmed a 23-point deficit to eight on Natalie Achonwa's fast-break basket with 1:57 left. But that wasn't enough to make up for being out-scored 23-4 in a second quarter. The four points matched the team record for fewest points in a quarter.
"Clearly we aren't playing well. That's an understatement,'' coach Cheryl Reeve said.
Where sometimes after a difficult loss Reeve can be angry, Sunday she was collected, perhaps knowing how important it is to keep the team together during a difficult 0-2 start to the season. "We've got some players that are better players than what we have seen," she said. "And so your only choice, as coaches, is to find a way to help.''
Help, frankly, is needed.
Shepard had another strong outing, with a 6-for-12, 16-point, 12-rebound double-double. But the rest of the starting lineup shot a combined 8-for-33. Fowles scored 13 on 5-for-12 shooting, as the team continued to try to get her the ball despite double- and triple-coverage. McCoughtry, in her Lynx debut, was 1-for-5, Powers 2-for-13.
The Lynx struggled to get into the paint, and struggled to make shots when they did. During that rather incredible second quarter, the Lynx's lone field goal was made by Nikolina Milic. Minnesota went 1-for-14 in the quarter while the Mystics (2-0) went 9-for-16.
The defense struggled, too. All five Washington starters were in double figures, led by Ariel Atkins (20 points), Natasha Cloud (19) and rookie center Shakira Austin, who had a 13-point, 10-rebound double-double.
The good news is the Lynx stopped the bleeding. Down 24 at the half and 23 entering the fourth, a lineup that included Shepard, Sims (10 points), Turner (11) and Bridget Carleton pulled the team within eight but got no closer.
Reeve is not ready to make big changes. "I sure would like them to try to do what they're being asked to do before we go and change anything,'' she said, perhaps some frustration showing.
Reeve said the team has practiced well, said all the right things and, most importantly, stuck together through a tough start. But when the clock starts ticking? They're not doing it. Not yet.
"It's hard to win in this league,'' Reeve said. "And it's really hard if you don't bring that level of intensity it takes to win possessions. I'm not talking about games; I'm talking possessions.''
Reeve said the team wasn't crisp in execution, wasn't sprinting the floor — in either direction.
All that has to change.
"We do really good things, in spurts,'' Fowles said. "But when we do bad things, it's really bad. And everything takes turns doing those bad things. I think the most important part is just locking in. Our attention to detail has been minimum, at best.''
• Achonwa left the game late in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a sore knee.