The Lynx lost 82-78 to defending WNBA champion Chicago on Saturday at Target Center.
It was their fourth straight loss at the start of the season.
But that’s where the similarities between the first three losses and what happened on Saturday end.
Yes, the Lynx – who have seen a major roster rotation over the past few days, who signed a new point guard, Moriah Jefferson, on Friday, who continues to struggle for a viable rotation – lost again to a team of Chicago which, with the starting backcourt of Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot finally healthy, improved to 2-1.
But this one looked different.
With just one practice and one shot, Jefferson showed signs of what the Lynx needed in that position. She gave momentum to the offense. She defended on the perimeter. She scored 16 points with five assists in 35 minutes. Just like a year ago, when the addition of Layshia Clarendon early in the season helped start the Lynx’s offense, Jefferson made a big difference.
Aerial Powers, stuck in a three-game shooting slump, scored 11 points with nine rebounds.
The Lynx got 18 points from Nikolina Milic off the bench. Sylvia Fowles had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Down 14 midway through the third quarter, the Lynx tied within eight going into the fourth and earned a point, 77-76, on Fowles’ field goal with 52.85 seconds left.
Vandersloot countered with what was essentially the winning trio.
In the end, Chicago’s roster balance – five players scored in double figures, led by Emma Meeseman’s 17 – was too much.
The Sky hit five of nine shots while building a 13-6 lead midway through the first quarter. The reason? They rebounded three of their four misses and turned them into eight second-chance points. Indeed, halfway through the quarter, the Lynx had recorded no rebounds of any kind.
But with Jefferson playing a solid game, the Lynx fought back. Down 13-6, they finished the quarter with a modest 12-8 run to shoot within 21-18 entering the second. While the Lynx had a six-point free throw advantage, Chicago turned five offensive rebounds into eight points.
And then the Sky started the second quarter on a 10-1 run to earn 12 points off Parker’s layup in less than two minutes. It was a bad sign for a Lynx team that had had a particularly bad quarter in each of its first three. losses.
But this time, they stopped the bleeding. Fowles’ hook shot at the other end started a 12-4 run for the Lynx, drawing them within 35-31 with 3:24 left in the half on Powers’ 12-footer.
But just when it looked like the Lynx were back in the game, the combination of missed shots and missed free throws fueled an 8-3 Sky run to end the half, putting Chicago in the lead 47-38.
The Lynx scored the first two baskets of the third quarter. They got a save, then Bridget Carleton was left with an open three from the corner that would have cut Chicago’s lead to two.
He did not fall. And the Sky responded with an 11-4 run that pushed their lead to 14. But Jefferson and Milic each scored five points in a 12-6 quarter end and cut that 14-point deficit to eight.
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