June 3, 2023 

As losses pile up, Minnesota Lynx ‘have to be desperate’

Minnesota has been within single digits in four of six games this season, but it's still searching for its first win

Nothing is getting any easier for the Minnesota Lynx. Fresh off the team’s sixth consecutive loss to start the season, an equal parts pulsating and frustrating 89-84 setback at the hands of the Connecticut Sun on Thursday, the Lynx take to the road for games against the Washington Mystics on Saturday and the New York Liberty on Tuesday.

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The Lynx will be without star rookie Diamond Miller for those games and beyond. The team announced on Friday that Miller suffered a “lower leg injury” on Tuesday in Dallas and will be “reevaluated in the following weeks.” Miller is averaging 10.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists this season in just 20.8 minutes per game.

“The word that I would use and how we should play is ‘desperate,’” veteran guard Kayla McBride said before the game on Thursday. “I think we’re still honestly figuring out our identity. And we have to be desperate trying to find that because that’s where we’re gonna find success. That’s where everything’s gonna kind of fall into place. … We have to figure out how to win together.

“It only takes one. It only takes one time for us to feel it as a group, to give us momentum. We know that. We’ve been in this position before. Yes, it’s about being professional and things like that, but it’s about being so desperate to figure out how to be successful as a group.” 

The loss that followed served as a microcosm for Minnesota’s 2023 season thus far. The highs included Napheesa Collier’s career-high 30-point effort; another double-double from Jessica Shepard, who continues to show up in just about every conceivable way; and an impressive first career start from rookie Dorka Juhász. However, the lows allowed another winnable game to slip out of reach in the final moments. 

“I’ve never been in this situation. I mean, it’s tough. It sucks to be 0-6,” Collier said postgame. “There’s nothing really to say at this point. We keep saying the same thing over and over again, and until we actually execute in the game, we’re going to be answering the same questions from [the media]. You guys are asking the same questions because we keep doing the same thing on the court. 

“We’re so close. … We could be 4-2 right now. I mean, easily. And those games are slipping through our fingers, so we have to, as a team, change our mindset. Otherwise, we’re going to continue to lose.”

Minnesota has been within single digits in four of its six losses. The Lynx won three of four quarters in the season-opening loss to Chicago on May 19, but the one quarter they didn’t win, they were outscored 22-3 in a snowballing turnover disaster. The Atlanta Dream needed the biggest comeback in franchise history to come away with a win against the Lynx on May 23. And it’s hard not to wonder what would have happened if Miller didn’t get hurt against Dallas on Tuesday.

When Miller went down late in the second quarter, she had posted eight points on 3-for-3 shooting, five rebounds and four assists in less than 12 minutes. The rookie was well on her way to her most comprehensive performance of the season. The ankle injury robbed her of that chance, and Minnesota came up short in what was previously a golden opportunity for a road win.

Turnovers and defense have been an issue in all six games, but the self-inflicted wounds don’t tell the whole story. The Lynx have had the third-hardest schedule in the WNBA so far, per Basketball-Reference. Miller’s absence on Thursday also forced Reeve to start a fifth different lineup in six games. Point guard Lindsay Allen missed the first game of the season due to a hamstring issue. Continuity has not been a luxury the 2023 Lynx have been blessed with.

“It’s obviously not ideal,” Lynx president of basketball operations and head coach Cheryl Reeve said said. “But it’s opportunity. That’s how you have to look at it. It’s opportunity and you have to keep going.”

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On Thursday, Connecticut got what it wanted near the basket, outscoring the Lynx 52-26 in the paint. Another unforced error for Minnesota against the Sun came at the free-throw line. After connecting on their first 16 free throws of the game, the Lynx shot 6-for-10 from the line in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter.  

“You’ve got to win your home games. You’ve got to win your home games,” Reeve said afterward. “It’s not okay. … You need stops, and … it’s not okay to give up layups when you have a team right there. You give up layups, because you don’t know the play that’s coming? [Assistant coach] Katie [Smith] sits there and tells them what play is coming, and they still get layups on us. Come out of timeouts, [they get] layups. Come out of the break, transition layups. 

“So it’s not okay. Our fans adore us. They expect different from us. That’s what I’m frustrated with. It’s not okay.”

Written by Terry Horstman

Terry Horstman is a Minneapolis-based writer and covers the Minnesota Lynx beat for The Next. He previously wrote about the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, and his other basketball writing has been published by Flagrant Magazine, HeadFake Hoops, Taco Bell Quarterly, and others. He's the creative nonfiction editor for the sports-themed literary magazine, the Under Review.

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