After losing for the third consecutive time, after showing more energy but getting the same result, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve summed up Sunday's 86-79 loss to Connecticut at Target Center — and, perhaps, much of this difficult 2022 season — like this:
"Our problem is we play in spurts," Reeve said. "We play great defense in spurts. I don't know what it is. Fatigue, or what. We lose our focus on what to do."
This was certainly true Sunday.
Spurts? Down 10 at the half, the Lynx started the second half on a 15-4 run to take a one-point lead on Moriah Jefferson's free throw with 4:40 left in the third quarter.
But over the next six or so minutes of clock time? A 20-8 Connecticut run — 13-6 to finish the third, 7-2 to start the fourth — that put the Sun in control for good.
Friday, the Sun beat the Lynx here on a game where Reeve questioned her team's intensity. Sunday, that part was better. But that wasn't enough.
"We're not consistent," said Rachel Banham, who came off the Lynx bench to score 11 points. "It's the story of our lives this season."
The fact is the Lynx (10-19), 2½ games out of a playoff spot with seven regular-season games left, just aren't as good as the third-place Sun (19-9), who have won three in a row and five of six.
Especially with All-Star center Sylvia Fowles (knee) not playing and with starting power forward Damiris Dantas away from the team dealing with a personal matter.
For the Lynx to pull off the upset they would have needed more play like they got in the third quarter and less of what they got in the fourth, when the Sun scored 11 points off five Lynx turnovers, scored 12 points in the paint and made nine of 17 shots.
"We need to get stops," said Aerial Powers, who led the Lynx with 17 points, but was 6-for-14 shooting. "That was our problem. At one point, we were down eight or 10 points, and we kept scoring, but they kept scoring, too. We couldn't cut the lead down."
Once again, Reeve felt the Lynx lost to a team that was more physical and more aggressive. At one point during her postgame access she talked about how she would like to see one of her players get an offensive foul by being more aggressive in the restricted area, where the Lynx missed far too many shots.
Natisha Hiedeman made five of eight threes and scored 19 points with five assists for the Sun. Brionna Jones had 18 points and eight rebounds, while Alyssa Thomas had 15 points and 10 boards. Jonquel Jones had eight points in 15 minutes off the bench after the 2021 WNBA MVP missed three games in COVID-19 protocols.
Nikolina Milic started for Fowles and scored 14 points before fouling out late in the game.
With the Sun up six entering the fourth quarter, Hiedeman hit a three to start a 7-2 start to the quarter that included layups by DeWanna Bonner and Thomas that put Connecticut up 11. The Lynx never got closer than five again, on Powers' three-pointer with 41.6 seconds left.
"I thought we were on track," Reeve said. "We were bringing the necessary energy. We looked different on defense. Then we just let 'em get ahead of us, because we stopped defending the paint."