Sunday's game with first-place Connecticut was barely five minutes old and already the Lynx were down by double figures. The winless team had started the game at Target Center the way it had played two nights before in Seattle, when the defending champion Storm steamrollered the defenseless Lynx from start to finish in what coach Cheryl Reeve described as one of the most disappointing games in her tenure.
But then something changed.
"We decided we were going to compete and battle," Kayla McBride said. "We kept fighting and everything fell into place."
Whether things stay in place remains to be seen, starting Friday night at home against Atlanta. Reeve hopes it wasn't a one-game desperation-based anomaly in a young season that has seen some pretty bad defense.
But, in an overtime victory over Connecticut, something definitely changed.
After allowing Connecticut to score 27 points on 10-for-16 shooting in the first 10 minutes, Minnesota held the Sun to 47 points on 17-for-55 shooting (3-for-18 on threes) over the final 35 in the overtime victory, the team's first after an 0-4 start.
In Seattle, the Storm scored 56 points in the paint — Reeve noted it probably would have been closer to 70 had Seattle not sat its starters in the fourth quarter. Against the Sun — the WNBA's highest scoring team in the paint — the Lynx ceded just 22 there, and just 12 after the first quarter.
The Lynx outrebounded the league's best rebounding team.
All of that was needed, of course, because it took the Lynx almost all of regulation to get its offense going; Minnesota was down eight with just over a minute left before rallying to sent the game to overtime.
"They just kept competing," Reeve said. "Sometimes, maybe through the first four games, when things didn't go our way, we didn't have the resolve we had [against the Sun]. I thought we were so engaged. This is what we asked them to do, because after the Seattle game it was so absent."
When it comes to defense, it's mainly communication and effort. And, frankly, Reeve said the effort hasn't always been there. It's difficult to ascertain why, given the team is largely the same one that used effort and connectedness to overachieve in the WNBA bubble last season. Reeve rejected the notion that there is "paralysis by analysis" for a team that missed key players in training camp.
Perhaps it was a case where the team thought it was doing more than it was, a notion that a lengthy post-Seattle film session debunked.
Whatever it is, Reeve admitted she has had to coach effort this year, which is new. And that got old quickly.
"It's been more of a struggle this year, and I can't put my finger on it," Reeve said. "We'll continue to work on it, because it's not how I'm going to spend the season.
"I don't think they want to spend the season that way either. You saw that in the last game, and hopefully that was not something we did one time because we were desperate to win a game. It has to be our identity."
It was against the Sun. The Lynx defended the paint well, but not at the cost of perimeter defense.
When Connecticut tried to exploit the Lynx with passes to the backside of the defense, the Lynx players closed out hard, but also helped when that defender was beat off the dribble.
"We were hard to play against," Reeve said.
Now the key is to do it again. And again.
"It has to continue," Napheesa Collier said. "Atlanta plays so aggressively, they have great players. We have to stay locked in."