Avoiding any technical terms, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve summarized the closing moments of Thursday's 90-78 loss to Seattle at Target Center in succinct fashion:
"They pushed at us,'' Reeve said. "And we didn't push back.''
In a game where they saw diminishing offensive returns as the game progressed, the Lynx led by 10 after a quarter, by 19 in the second quarter, by 15 at the half and by 14 with 9 minutes and 13 seconds left in the game.
And they lost, for the third straight time to start this season.
"We didn't get back,'' Reeve said. "We didn't get back in transition. We didn't have the will, in terms of getting to three-point shooters. And when we needed to make shots to slow it down a little bit, we couldn't get that done.''
The Lynx were outscored 37-11 over the final eight minutes, a ball rolling downhill that hit critical mass thanks to Jordin Canada, who scored 11 of her 16 points in the final quarter and Sue Bird, who scored eight of her 21 then. Bird and Jewell Loyd (23 points) were a combined 10-for-17 on three-pointers on a night when superstar Brianna Stewart (13 points) was held in relative check.
The Lynx made 11 of their first 16 shots and were still shooting over 50% at the half. But cold shooting (12-for-34) and turnovers (the Storm scored a total of 26 points off 17 Lynx turnovers) doomed Minnesota.
"Turnovers and not a good flow,'' Lynx guard Crystal Dangerfield said. "And we missed some easy ones, right at the rim. Can't do anything about that. But then, you have to go down to the other end and get stops.''
Two days after going scoreless for just the second time in her career, and again coming off the bench, Dangerfield led the Lynx with 22 points on 10-for-16 shooting with six assists. Center Sylvia Fowles had 20 points and nine boards. Fowles had 11 of her points in the first quarter. But, against a collapsing Seattle defense, she scored just nine over the final three. She had consecutive baskets in the fourth quarter, the second with 4:44 left, to put the Lynx up eight. But the Lynx managed just three points the rest of the way.
The Lynx remain a team looking for an identity, still awaiting the arrival in practice — and in games — of Napheesa Collier. Meanwhile, key players are struggling to make shots. Kayla McBride was 2-for-7. Aerial Powers scored 10 points with six assists and five rebounds. But she had seven turnovers and was 2-for-8 shooting; she has made just four of 18 shots the past two games.
The Storm turned 17 Lynx turnovers into 26 points and had a 21-6 edge on fast-break points. Once again the Lynx bench was outscored 31-26 despite Dangerfield's big game.
"The fourth [quarter] just got away from us,'' Fowles said. "We have to make sure we're doing the right things down in crunch time, making sure we score.''
At this point the schedule gives the Lynx a much-needed respite. They don't play again until May 28 in a rematch against the Storm in Seattle. By then, presumably, Collier will be back and the team will have some extended practice time to work out some of the problems that have come up during their 0-3 start.
"Really important," Reeve said. "Even before this stretch, as I mapped out the season, I felt like you have to take advantage of any time you have like this.
"Obviously, it's integrating people, making decisions on our identity, what we're going to do. Getting more comfortable with those things. It's really important for us.''