For the first time since May 28, the Lynx returned to the Xcel Energy Center on Saturday night.
But the team couldn’t have looked familiar to the announced crowd of 10,121.
Beat up on the boards, run ragged on defense, the Lynx saw their winning streak to start the season end at nine in a 98-93 loss to a Connecticut Sun team that has won four games in a row and five of six.
“It’s not often that we shoot 51.4 percent, 43.8 [on three-pointers], score 93 points and lose,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.
“Their offense was better than our defense,” Maya Moore said.
Looking to start a season with 10 or more victories for the third time in six seasons, the Lynx — who had beaten the Sun (5-5) twice before Saturday — ran into a hot team that shot 55.4 percent, easily the highest by a Lynx opponent this season. Both teams had six players in double figures. But the Sun got 20 points from both Jasmine and Alyssa Thomas, who are not related, while center Jonquel Jones (16 points, eight rebounds, four steals, four blocks) get the better of Lynx center Sylvia Fowles (12 points, seven rebounds, zero blocks).
Moore led the Lynx with 22. Renee Montgomery came off the bench to score 15. The four other Lynx starters were in double figures, too.
But the Lynx could not slow the Sun attack.
“It all starts with the defense,” Fowles said. “Tonight they ran us to death, they screened us to death.”
Said Reeve: “We couldn’t knock them off their stride. We had problems in every scheme we tried to play. I didn’t feel we had the conviction to take ’em out of stuff. We had no answer defensively.”
Up two at the half, the Lynx came out strong to start the third quarter. Lindsay Whalen had six points in a 10-4 run that pushed Minnesota lead to eight on Whalen’s 18-foot shot.
But the Sun just kept coming. Connecticut was within one point after three quarters. The Lynx were still up a point early in the fourth quarter when the Sun went on a 12-3 run to take a 90-82 lead on former Gophers star Rachel Banham’s three-pointer with 5:01 left.
And the Lynx couldn’t get enough stops to come back. Down six late, Moore hit a three-pointer with 21.6 seconds left. Jasmine Thomas was fouled and missed two free throws. But, out of the ensuing timeout, Moore’s three-pointer missed and Jones iced it with two free throws with 6.4 seconds left.
Connecticut outrebounded the Lynx 36-21, hit 10 of 22 three-pointers and scored a whopping 26 points off 13 Lynx turnovers; nine of those points came in the fourth quarter.
“We’re typically pretty good knowing where they want the ball to be, and then using denial or ball pressure,” Reeve said. “I felt we were in reactionary mode. Connecticut ran their offense with great speed. Every scheme we played they picked apart.”
Bottom line is Connecticut was able to get one open shot after another. And then the Sun knocked ’em down.
“We’re disappointed,” Moore said. “But we’ll be able to bounce back and play better in our next game.”
Connecticut 98, Lynx 93 Friday: 7 p.m. vs. Washington (ESPN2)