At the start of the Lynx's game at Chicago on Friday night, the Sky's shots weren't falling.
But even then Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve sensed a problem. Chicago was getting good shots, but missing, staying in the game by slamming the offensive boards. If the Sky ever warmed up …
And in the penultimate regular-season game for both teams, with loads on the line, the Sky rallied from nine down late in the first quarter for a 92-87 victory.
"We didn't dictate enough in the beginning," said Lynx star Napheesa Collier, who had another strong game with 28 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. "We weren't aggressive enough getting up in them, making them take bad shots. And it lit a fire."
Chicago made three of its first 18 shots overall and one of five threes. The rest of the way? The Sky shot 32-for-57 from the floor and 10-for-17 on threes. Down nine late in the first, Chicago closed to within three entering the second, then took control of the game in the second quarter, leading by as many as 12 in the fourth.
This despite the Lynx starters outscoring Chicago's 86-67.
Four Lynx starters were in double figures. Diamond Miller — locked in a feisty battle with Chicago star Kahleah Copper much of the night — scored 24 points on 10-for-11 shooting, making three of four threes. Kayla McBride had 16, Tiffany Mitchell 10 and Dorka Juhász eight points and 10 boards.
But the Lynx bench — shortened by an injury to Jessica Shepard — was outscored 25-1.
"The thing we messaged to the team was that we need everybody," Reeve said. "We just didn't get the overall help we needed from the bench, which we've gotten most of the season. If they have even an average game things look a little different."
Here's how things look entering Sunday's finale at Indiana:
* The loss dropped the Lynx (19-20) from the fifth to the sixth seed behind Atlanta (19-20), which won at Washington 80-75 on Friday. Because Atlanta has the tiebreaker, the Lynx need to win Sunday and have the Dream lose at home to Dallas to get back up to No. 5 and a first-round playoff series with Dallas. Locked into the fourth seed, the Wings have little to play for.
* The Lynx would finish No. 6 and play Connecticut in the first round with a loss Sunday or with an Atlanta victory.
Meanwhile, Chicago (17-22) secured the eighth and final WNBA playoff spot. Copper scored 20, Marina Mabrey 19, Courtney Williams 13 and Alanna Smith 11. Ruthy Hebert (10) and Dana Evans (nine) were strong off the bench.
"We want the best seed possible," Collier said. "We wanted to win both of these games. We didn't execute tonight, but we have to lock in against Indiana. They work hard in every game they're in."
Down 12 with 3:22 left in the game, the Lynx never got closer than seven until Miller's three-pointer with 12.7 seconds left made it a five-point final.
Now the Lynx have to win Sunday and hope for an Atlanta loss to get a trip to Dallas.
"We weren't there defensively like we needed to be," Reeve said. "We weren't finishing plays. We were giving them extra possessions. The stuff we saw was stuff we went over. For whatever reason, they had more bounce in their step, more urgency. They played well."
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.