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Because the Lynx did so many good things Tuesday night at Target Center, their 81-79 loss to Seattle, one that turned on Breanna Stewart's driving score with 42.6 seconds left, was particularly painful.

For weeks the Lynx (3-12) have been working to defend for four quarters. For the most part, this time, they did. During their difficult start they have looked to bring consistent effort, share the ball, respond when pushed by an opponent.

Check, check, check.

But, mate: The Lynx allowed the Storm (9-4) to hit 12 of 27 three-pointers. That included a 4-for-5 performance by Epiphanny Prince in the fourth quarter, when she scored 12 of her 15 points.

So much got better, but the result was the same.

"It's exhausting,'' said Aerial Powers. "It really is. Seattle is 9-5. They're a good team. Tough. And we come out and lose by two points. It's like, are we getting there yet?''

Close, but no victory.

The Lynx, playing again without Sylvia Fowles but with Kayla McBride back, shot 51.5%. The offense slowed a bit in the second half. But the team had 27 assists on 35 made shots. The ball was moving, and players were moving without the ball.

The Storm, playing without an ill Sue Bird, shot only 38.4%. But it hit 12 threes. And, on a night when the Lynx scored 48 points in the paint, they were outscored 13-3 from the free throw line.

"In the locker room they're pretty crushed,'' coach Cheryl Reeve said. "But it feels like maybe they got an understanding of how hard we have to play. They finally got a sense of what it's like to be difficult to play against.''

Which only makes the final more difficult to take. The Lynx were up by as many as 11 in the second quarter and were up seven at the half. They were up two entering the fourth. But a flurry of threes from Prince put the Storm up 76-72 with 5:08 left.

The Lynx didn't give up. Still down five with 2½ minutes left, they fought back for a tie. Powers hit two free throws with 1:32 left. The Lynx got a stop, then McBride hit a tying three with 52 seconds left.

But, out of a timeout, Stewart scored — she finished with 29 points — and the Lynx couldn't get a shot at the other end. Minnesota forced a Storm miss but couldn't gather the rebound.

McBride, back after missing a game with a sore foot, scored 20 points. Jessica Shepard had 12 points and six rebounds off the bench. Nikoloina Milic, getting the start, scored 11. Powers had 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

But it wasn't enough. There were a few too many turnovers down the stretch, perhaps not enough execution on the possession that ended with Moriah Jefferson's miss with 30.3 seconds left.

"I feel like we did fight,'' McBride said. "We fought as much as we could. It stinks. But there were positives. A loss is a loss. But I'm proud of how we fought.''

Reeve was disappointed, but encouraged. "Absolutely. We've been struggling to get this out of 'em. It's good to have it on film that they can do it.''

But it was a little more difficult for players to find anything but frustration.

Powers tried. "I did think today chemistry was found {within] our team,'' she said. "I feel like with everything, chemistry was found today.''