The Minnesota Lynx try to put more ground between themselves and the bottom four of the league Tuesday night when they face the struggling New York Liberty.
The Lynx (12-12) are currently seventh in the WNBA and would need to finish fifth or sixth to host a first-round playoff game. Minnesota has a 3 1 /2-game lead over ninth-place Indiana with 10 games remaining and trails fourth-place Las Vegas by 3 1/2 games for a postseason bye into the second round.
Cheryl Reeve’s team was unable to complete a sweep of the top two teams in the league after getting pummeled 101-78 at Washington on Sunday. The Lynx barely resembled the team that thumped Connecticut by 32 points Friday night, allowing the Mystics to shoot 54.8 percent while getting outscored 27-10 at the foul line.
“We’ve got one of the top defensive teams in the league, but you would not know that by watching this game today,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve fumed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “We had zero concept of defending the post. Zero. Three players with 20-plus points – 25, 23 and 20 on our defense.”
Odyssey Sims had 20 points and eight assists while rookie Napheesa Collier contributed 11 points, six rebounds and five assists. Minnesota has lost five of seven overall and four of five on the road – with the lone win coming against WNBA-worst Atlanta. In the three road games in that span the Lynx played outside Atlanta, they gave up 87.7 points per game – well above their season average of 75.3 that ranks third in the league.
The playoffs appear to be out of reach for New York (8-15), which is three games behind Phoenix for the eighth and final spot. The Liberty are trying to avoid their first six-game skid since ending last year with 13 straight losses and have dropped eight of nine overall after an 84-69 home defeat to Seattle on Sunday.
Tina Charles had 22 points and eight rebounds to pace the Liberty, who committed nine of their 19 turnovers in a decisive third quarter in which they were outscored 27-12.
“We dug ourselves a hole again in the second half,” coach Katie Smith told Elite Sports New York. “We knew they were going to ratchet up their pressure, knew they were going to fly around. We turned over the ball in the second half. … (It was) “same as Chicago, same as Dallas. We can’t turn it over.”
Starting forward Amanda Zahui B. is currently in the league’s concussion protocol and her status for this game is uncertain. Asia Durr, the No. 2 overall pick who has averaged 9.7 points in 18 games, is questionable after aggravating a groin injury that caused her to miss Sunday’s contest.
The teams have split the first two meetings this year, with the home team winning both. The Lynx won the most recent matchup 92-83 on June 22 as Sims, Collier and Sylvia Fowles combined for 58 points on 24-of-38 shooting.
(Danielle Robinson photo courtesy Minnesota Lynx official Twitter account)