The Minnesota Lynx appeared to have turned the corner on their 0-4 start to the season, winning three consecutive games heading into their Tuesday matchup against the Elena Delle Donne-less Washington Mystics.
But what seemed to be a prime opportunity to get back to .500 on the season instead proved to be a bump in the road as turnovers and a dominant Mystics’ third quarter led to an 85-81 Lynx loss at Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C.
“They had two big quarters, the second and third quarters — 26 and 27 (points) — that’s just bad,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Washington, it’s a home game for them, and their desperation showed how badly they wanted to win the game, so ours needed to match and then exceed at some point, and I don’t think we ever reached that point.”
Napheesa Collier scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Lynx (3-5), who were showing intensity early on. They jumped out to a nine-point lead midway through the first quarter.
That lead, however, quickly dissipated as Mystics center Tina Charles exploded for 17 first half points, leading her team to a 43-38 halftime lead.
Charles finished with 31 points and eight rebounds and received some help from teammates Myish Hines-Allen and Ariel Atkins, who finished with 19 and 17 points, respectively.
“We came here, we said that Washington had to beat us… Washington made it difficult for us,” Reeve said. “I thought that they beat us. It wasn’t a case that I didn’t think that we were not playing with energy, not trying to do the right things. Washington beat us. They put us in positions that made it difficult for us to make plays. We didn’t make plays.”
The Mystics (3-5) carried their momentum into the third quarter, where they outscored the Lynx 27-18.
Charles continued to be a force for the Mystics, drilling one of her three three-pointers in the game during a five-minute Lynx’s scoring drought.
Charles wasn’t the only problem for the Lynx; they turned the ball over 21 times, which translated into 23 Mystics’ points.
“I thought their physicality was a problem,” Reeve said. “Anyway, 21 turnovers (that’s) difficult to overcome. It’s just not something you can do. But give Washington credit… They wanted this game badly; it showed.”
Sylvia Fowles finished with 15 points and five rebounds and Layshia Clarendon had 14 and seven rebounds. Guard Crystal Dangerfield, who finished with 10 points, hit a buzzer beater three to end the quarter and sparked a fourth quarter run.
“We gave ourselves a position to be in the game, but over time, we had so many turnovers; and like coach said, I just felt like they kind of wanted it more overall throughout the game,” Collier said. “We couldn’t pull it out at the end.”
The Lynx cut the lead down to four with 30 seconds remaining, but they couldn’t quite overcome the double-digit deficit.
“We have to learn to win on the road, and we’re still figuring that out,” Clarendon said. “We’re not going to completely freak out over one loss, but it was a very winnable game and that’s what hurts the most.”
The Lynx will return to play on Saturday with a matchup against the Los Angeles Sparks back home at Target Center.