The Minnesota Lynx headed into their final road game of the 2018 regular season on Friday night with a tall task at hand.
Not only were the Lynx entering a tough environment away from home at Mohegan Sun Arena while carrying a two-game losing streak, but the defending champions were also taking on another one of the WNBA’s top teams in the Connecticut Sun, who came into the game winners in seven of their last eight contests.
In a potential playoff preview, the Sun cruised past the Lynx thanks to a strong second have to hand Minnesota a 96-79 loss, moving its losing streak to three in a row.
The Lynx kicked off the game with a strong start, not looking fazed against one of the WNBA’s hottest teams as of late. Minnesota opened up the game outscoring Connecticut 28-22, while shooting a season-best 82.4 percent from the field. Sylvia Fowles led all scorers in the opening frame by tallying 14 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting.
In the second quarter, Connecticut chipped away at Minnesota’s lead, as the Lynx led by just three points, 46-43, heading into the break. The Lynx continued their strong shooting performance in the second quarter, ending up with a 62.5 percentage mark at halftime. A key for Minnesota in the first half was the way it moved the ball on offense, assisting on 16 of the total 20 made baskets in the first two quarters.
In the second half, the Sun turned the tables and quickly took their first lead of the game early on in the third quarter. Connecticut outscored Minnesota 29-21 to grab a 56-50 advantage entering the final quarter.
Once the Sun took that lead in the third, they wouldn’t look back while continuing to pull away in the fourth quarter. Connecticut, which held a 24-12 edge in the final frame, ended up breezing to a home victory against Minnesota.
A common storyline throughout the recent struggles for the Lynx has been their defense, or lack thereof, as well as allowing opponents to get a large number of attempts at the free throw line. The Sun finished the game shooting 55.6 percent from the field, including eight threes, and made it to the line a total of 23 times, making 18.
Minnesota shot 49.3 percent in the game, making just three 3s. Although they shot a perfect 100 percent from the free-throw line, the Lynx were only able to make it to the line a total of six times.
Following her strong first quarter, Fowles finished the game with a near double-double of 25 points, eight rebounds and two assists. Maya Moore, who struggled from the field while shooting 5 for 13, had 12 points and eight rebounds, followed by Seimone Augustus with 12 points and Cecilia Zandalasini with 10 points and three assists.
Outside of those four main scorers for the Lynx, no other player really added much in the loss. The rest of the roster, which consisted of six players that saw playing time, totaled 20 points. Lindsay Whalen – who returned to Connecticut for possibly the final time in her career – had six points and three assists and Alexis Jones finished with six points off the bench.
Rebekkah Brunson (concussion) and Danielle Robinson (ankle) remained out in the game for Minnesota. Brunson, who Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve admitted is making progress towards a return, was upgraded from out to doubtful throughout the week, which could be a sign that she might be ready to go on Sunday or by playoff time next week.
The Sun were strong in the paint, an area the Lynx normally own, led by Jonquel Jones and Alyssa Thomas. Jones tallied a team-high 26 points and five rebounds, while Thomas had 18 points and eight rebounds. Layshia Clarendon grabbed 14 points and five assists off the bench, while Courtney Williams contributed 13 points and eight rebounds for Connecticut.
With the loss, Minnesota dropped to 17-16 on the season, basically locking up the No. 7 seed for the WNBA Playoffs next week and ensuring it won’t host a first-round playoff game. The Lynx are 1.5 games behind Phoenix and the No. 6, while still two games ahead of Dallas and the No. 8 seed.
As mentioned earlier, Minnesota and Connecticut could possibly end up facing each other again this season in a playoff matchup. The Sun, who improved to 20-13 with the win, are sitting in the No. 4 seed, two games back of No. 3 Washington and one game in front of No. 5 Los Angeles.
The Lynx will return back to Minneapolis on Sunday to wrap up the regular season at Target Center against another tough opponent. Minnesota will host Washington at 6 p.m., honoring Whalen with a post-game celebration after the game.