Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve didn’t seem angry. Tired, maybe. Her voice just this side of gone, she talked about her team being in a place it hasn’t been in a long, long time — lacking, perhaps, in toughness. A team that has won four WNBA titles looking to regain its will.
“You can only do so much,’’ Reeve said Sunday after her team had lost its second straight home game, 83-64 to a Connecticut team that led by as many as 31 points.
“You can’t give someone will,’’ Reeve continued. “That’s internal. Want-to, will, collective will. … This is a group that’s done a lot together, an awful lot together. And it gets harder and harder to be them. I think we’re seeing that.
“In some cases, they’re giving everything they have. What’s in their tank, they’re giving everything they have. And obviously, right now, the last couple games, it’s not good enough.”
If that sounds ominous, there’s a reason.
In front of an announced Target Center crowd of 9,234 — many of whom stayed to the end — the Lynx lost for the third time in four games. Just days ago, with her team about to embark on a stretch of three straight home games and four in five games heading into the break, Reeve talked about how it could be a defining stretch of the season.
So is it?
“We’ll figure it out,’’ said a rather terse Maya Moore. “Otherwise we won’t win.’’
At 12-10 the Lynx are now eighth in the WNBA, holding on to what would be the final playoff spot. In this up-and-down season the Lynx started 3-6, then won seven straight, but they have lost four of their past six. That stretch includes a home loss to Indiana, a loss at Chicago and Friday’s loss to Las Vegas.
And then Sunday. Playing again without power forward Rebekkah Brunson, the Lynx were outplayed in just about every category: The Sun (12-10) had edges in rebounding (41-27), three-point shooting (12-for-25 compared to 4-for-15 for Minnesota), second-chance points (18-6) and fast-break points (14-0).
It was the rebounding that seemed to bother Reeve most. But so did her team leaving Sun three-point shooters open, not playing transition defense.
But the rebounding: “That’s an effort area,’’ Reeve said. “A passion area. A want-to. Theirs outweighed ours. That’s what’s disappointing.’’
Moore struggled again, going 2-for-11 for five points and one rebound. So did center Sylvia Fowles, who scored 12 points with eight rebounds but scored only six points after the first quarter. The five Lynx starters shot a combined 16-for-43, 0-for-8 on three-pointers.
The Sun has five players in double figures, led by Morgan Tuck’s 15. Former Gophers star Rachal Banham hit three three-pointers and scored 11 points.
The Lynx fell to 0-8 when neither Moore nor Fowles score 20 points.
For Moore, whose career has included pretty much nothing but winning, this has to be new territory. In her past six games the Lynx are 2-6 and she has shot 23-for-72.
“It’s in our control,’’ said Moore, who indicated she wasn’t battling injury issues. “So, we’ll figure it out.’’
To Reeve, this has been a nearly season-long problem. There have been times when the team has played well, in victories over Los Angeles, Phoenix, Seattle. But too often the team has not responded when challenged. Reeve traced it back to a two-point loss in Atlanta early in the season, one in which the Lynx were outscored 13-4 to end the game.
“We have to find a way to respond when a team starts making their hits at us,’’ Reeve said. “That’s been missing most of the season. Not every game. Obviously we’ve won some games, we’ve played like people have come to expect us to play. We’ve had stretches. It was tough at the start, and then we won. And now we’re in this new stretch of not being who we want to be.’’
The Lynx have one more at home, Wednesday against Indiana, a quick trip to Phoenix, then a home game vs. New York before the All-Star Game break.
“It starts with defense,’’ Fowles said. “Everything gets us going defensively. And we haven’t been able to get that done. Defense is what we need to tackle, and go from there.”