The Lynx have spent the shortened, 22-game season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., overcoming injuries and adversity.
It’s time to do it again.
After the second-place Las Vegas Aces beat the Lynx 104-89, they will take a three-game losing streak into their final regular-season game, After that the Lynx will find out where they’ll finish and when their playoffs will start.
Without injured center Sylvia Fowles, the Lynx simply didn’t match up well with the Aces. The Lynx saw a two-point halftime deficit turn into a 21-point hole early in the fourth quarter.
The team’s defensive struggles continued as they have given up more than 100 points for the second time in three games. They let the Aces do what they usually do — score in the paint (46 points) and at the free-throw line (20 points). But Las Vegas also hit a season-high 10 three-pointers.
Afterward, coach Cheryl Reeve said her team would be ready, whenever those playoffs begin.
“You hope we can play well to finish the season with our last game Saturday [against Indiana],’’ she said. “This is a team that can earn a fourth or fifth seed. I think it’s a good regular season for us. … The team understands where we’re at. There is no reason for us to be down or hanging our heads. I have no concerns about our group handling that.
“They remain confident in what they’re doing and also in their teammates.’’
The Lynx (13-8) were able to score with the Aces (16-4) through the first two quarters. The Lynx drew within a point early in the third only to have the Aces finish the quarter on a 23-12 run led by Danielle Robinson — the former Lynx — who scored eight points, including two threes, in the run.
Crystal Dangerfield scored a game-high 24 points, but three of her six turnovers came in the third quarter when the Aces began to pull away.
Napheesa Collier had another double-double (17 points and 11 rebounds), but she went scoreless in the second half.
Angel McCoughtry scored 22 points for Las Vegas on her 34th birthday. A’ja Wilson had 20 points and Kayla McBride 21.
The Aces outrebounded the Lynx 37-33 and committed only six turnovers to Minnesota’s 12.
The loss pushed the Lynx into a tie with Phoenix for fourth place — the last slot with a first-round playoff bye — with a game left for each team. Phoenix plays first-place Seattle on Friday night; the Lynx finish their season against Indiana, which has a 6-15 record, on Saturday.
The first round of single elimination is on Tuesday, the second round on Thursday.
That first-round bye could be critical for the Lynx’s hopes.
Center Sylvia Fowles is recovering from her calf injury. She has begun doing some contact work on the court.
Reeve indicated pregame that a first-round bye would greatly improve Fowles’ chances of being back for the start of the team’s playoff run.
If they have to play Tuesday? Reeve said Fowles would likely be questionable.
For now, the Lynx have to focus on Saturday and Indiana.
“Obviously defense,’’ said Collier, when asked the most important thing to focus on. “And turnovers killed us tonight, so trying to take care of the ball.’’
The Star Tribune is not traveling to Florida for NBA and WNBA coverage. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.