Sunday in Chicago, the Lynx made nearly 60% of their shots, almost 38% of their threes. With a lineup that didn't include a point guard much of the time, they rallied from 11 down with just over 4 minutes left to tie the score on three free throws from Kayla McBride with 7.6 seconds left.
But none of that mattered when Courtney Vandersloot found herself alone behind the three-point line as time wound down. Her basket as time expired gave second-place Chicago an 88-85 victory, ending a modest two-game winning streak for the visitors.
This is the final step, figuring out how to finish games.
Over the past handful of games, the Lynx offense has found a rhythm. But, as coach Cheryl Reeve said after the loss, the team isn't going anywhere until it starts adding defense to mix, and taking some of the turnovers away.
"When you shoot 58.9 percent you should win the game," Reeve said. "The Minnesota Lynx are not a team that has really bought into the defensive side."
With Reeve disappointed in her point guard play — starter Moriah Jefferson was not in the game for much of the final Lynx push — the Lynx allowed Chicago to score 27 points off 18 turnovers. The Sky was tied for last in the league in points off turnovers coming into the game.
With the Chicago backcourt of Allie Quigley and Vandersloot getting good penetration, the Sky (13-5) scored 48 points in the paint.
On the game's final play, Reeve said Jefferson helped on Emma Meesseman, allowing Vandersloot to get open.
"It hurts," said McBride, who scored 15 points, the last three on those clutch free throws that had the Lynx on the verge of overtime. It's hard to fight all the way back. That group, the last five minutes … they got us back in the game."
The group consisted mainly of Aerial Powers, McBride, Bridget Carleton, Natalie Achonwa and Jessica Shepard. Shepard had five points in that run, a layup and a three, Achonwa scored twice, Carleton hit a three with 11.5 seconds left that made it a one-point game.
Candace Parker hit two free throws with 10.1 seconds left before McBride was fouled and hit three of her own.
Sylvia Fowles scored 12, Jefferson 11, Shepard 15 with eight rebounds off the bench. Achonwa had 10.
All five Chicago starters scored 11 or more, led by Vandersloot (18) and Meesseman (15).
McBride said it best: "We shot 59 percent from the field. That's good enough to win the game. But we also shot ourselves in the foot [with turnovers]."
That group at the end did, for a while. After taking that 11-point lead, the Sky went 0-for-5 from the field with three turnovers as the Lynx roared back.
"They were the players with the most will to win the game, besides Syl, who was above her minutes limit," Reeve said.
Said Shepard: "We had a will about us to compete."
But then Vandersloot got loose.
In a game with two hot offenses, with field goal and free throw totals so close, the difference was the 27-15 edge the Sky had on points off turnovers.
"We have to figure that out," McBride said.
As expected, Nikolina Milic was re-signed — this time to a seven-day contract — before Sunday's game.
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.