It went down to the final seconds of their seventh game of the season, but the Lynx finally earned their first victory of 2023.
Tiffany Mitchell made a tiebreaking layup off her own miss with three seconds left to give the Lynx an 80-78 victory over the Washington Mystics on Saturday night at Entertainment and Sports Arena.
Mitchell finished with 10 points for the Lynx (1-6), who ran their last play exactly how it was drawn up. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said she got the play from former Mystics coach Mike Thibault.
"[The play] has long been in our playbook," Reeve said. "We're trying to teach [Mitchell] different ways to free herself.
"She was feeling bad about herself for a stretch she had. We were in the huddle, I looked at her and said, 'You've got to make a play.' She said, 'OK.' Real calm. She stayed with it and good defense on her. I was happy for her to see that go down."
The Lynx entered the fourth quarter with a 61-51 lead, but with five minutes left the score was tied at 67-67. The score was still tied at 71-71 before Jessica Shepard scored six consecutive points to give the Lynx a 77-71 lead with 54.1 seconds left. She finished with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists.
The Lynx responded by turning the ball over on three straight possessions and made one free throw to allow the Mystics to tie the score 78-78 with 7.1 seconds left on a three-pointer by Brittney Sykes.
The Lynx went on runs of 25-11 and 18-3 to close out the second and third quarters, respectively. However, the Mystics started the third and fourth quarters with runs of 8-2 and 16-6, respectively.
"We were all in the space of understanding that it was really important that we know there is going to be runs," Reeve said. "We knew what Washington was going to do. They were going to play off their defense. They were going to turn up the pressure. I think in each of those moments where maybe things didn't go our way.
"The narrative, the things that were being said, were all pointed tangible things to give players to then correct what was happening. I thought the emotional maturity of the whole group was exactly where it needs to be. It's hard to win a game in this league. It's hard to win possessions in this league. We understood that if we continued to stay locked in and did little things."
The Lynx turned the game around in the second quarter by outscoring the Mystics 25-16 to take a seven-point lead into halftime. Rachel Banham only played 11 minutes and had six points, but her first basket started the run with 8:10 left in the first half.
Kayla McBride led the Lynx with 24 points and five rebounds and Napheesa Collier had 17 points and nine rebounds.
The Lynx held the Mystics' two leading scorers to 26 combined points — Elena Delle Donne finished with 12 points and Shakira Austin had 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Ariel Atkins led the Mystics (3-3) with 18 points and Natasha Cloud had 14.
The Lynx had opportunities in each of their first six games of the season to get a win, but found ways to lose. Their confidence never wavered and were rewarded in Washington.
"I think this group will tell you that they understood the opportunities that were there in other games that we couldn't capitalize on, cash in for a W," Reeve said. "Their confidence was actually in a really good space and their understanding and receptiveness to how do you get separation to win a game, especially on the road."
The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.