You didn’t think this was going to be easy did you?
After a wonderful ring ceremony and 2017 Championship celebration in front of a boisterous Target Center crowd, the Lynx lost a heartbreaker to the Los Angeles Sparks in the first game of their 2018 season on Sunday afternoon. A Chelsea Gray buzzer beater gave Los Angeles the 77-76 win, and sent the Lynx home with a bad taste in their mouths after they fought through a sloppy game and gave themselves a chance to win.
The game was defined by the Lynx’s turnovers. They gave away the ball 24 times. Minnesota’s defense was actually very good tonight—they held the Sparks to 40.3-percent shooting from the field and 16.7-percent from three. However, with 5.8 seconds left in the game and a foul to give, the Lynx couldn’t come up with a stop.
“This was obviously uncharacteristic,” said coach Cheryl Reeve. “Honestly I can’t even explain it. So many players out there I have no idea what they’re doing. Maybe they’re tired. No idea. What I told them I did appreciate was that players came in and tried to will us to win.”
The new Lynx players all looked solid tonight, and Reeve praised the effort of both Tanisha Wright and Lynetta Kizer. The Lynx also got a vintage Lindsay Whalen performance—she finished with 17 points and 9 assists—and an encouraging shooting performance (5-6, 15 points) from Rebekkah Brunson. A lot went right for the Lynx, and it’s easy to see how good the team could be. But that makes a night like tonight all that much more difficult to swallow. There are positives, but when you give your opponent 17 more shots than you take, it’s hard to win games.
The Lynx faced a Sparks team tonight that was out for revenge after losing to Minnesota in Game 5 of the 2017 WNBA Championship. When you’re the defending champions, especially one with as long a legacy as the Lynx, you’re going to get every team at their best. The Sparks scrapped and clawed their way to a victory, and the Lynx just couldn’t come up with quite enough to stop them.
In this condensed WNBA season, there’s not going to be too much time for reflection. The Lynx will have a few days now to practice and clean up some of what went wrong tonight before they host the Dallas Wings on Wednesday night. This isn’t the opening the Lynx wanted, but at the end of the season, it’s just one game. The important thing now is what comes next.