The Lynx entered their game with Seattle on Friday night at Target Center with their WNBA playoff fate in their hands. By the time the Storm finished off a 96-69 victory, the Lynx needed some help.
Friday's loss dropped the Lynx from seventh in the WNBA standings to ninth, one spot out of the playoffs. With all 12 teams playing their final regular-season game Sunday, New York and Phoenix (both 15-20) occupy seventh and eighth place, respectively. The Lynx and Atlanta (both 14-21) are in ninth and 10th.
And now the Lynx head to Connecticut for Sunday's game needing to win and needing help. And that means getting past Friday's one-sided loss.
"What we said in the huddle [after the game] was, 'Don't hold your head down,' " said Sylvia Fowles, who will be playing in her final regular-season game Sunday. "We have one more game left. We still have a lifeline. We just have to flush [the loss]. Hopefully we go out and play better on Sunday."
Here's what has to happen for the Lynx to make the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season:
First, they have to beat the Sun, a team they are 0-2 against this season.
If they do that and either New York (which is playing host to Atlanta) or Phoenix (which is playing host to Chicago) loses, the Lynx are in. They would finish with the seventh seed with a victory if the Liberty and Mercury both lose. If the Lynx win and only one of the two other teams loses, they would finish with the eighth and final seed.
First, the Lynx. They have to be able to get past Friday's loss with a quick turnaround. "If we can't, I guess we'll get blown out at Mohegan Sun [where Connecticut plays]," coach Cheryl Reeve said. "We have to. We have to fight. I think we'll go out and fight and we'll see what we can do."
It might help that the Sun having nothing to play for — they are locked into the No. 3 seed. On the other hand, both New York and Phoenix will be playing teams with much to play for. Defending champion Chicago could still secure the No. 1 seed if the Sky beat Phoenix and Las Vegas loses to Seattle. And New York plays host to an Atlanta team still fighting for a playoff spot.
After Friday's loss — the most lopsided of the season for the Lynx — Reeve talked about the team's inability to get penetration into the paint, which creates opportunities for good shots.
Most of that responsibility lies on point guard Moriah Jefferson, who failed to score for only the second time this season; Jefferson ended up playing just 15 minutes.
"We need point guard play," Reeve said. "We've got to get that. Without that, everything gets more challenging. When we get that, we're a pretty good team."
In victories this season, Jefferson has averaged 12.6 points and 6.4 assists while shooting 50% overall and making 21 of 37 three-pointers. In losses, she averages 9.4 points and 3.8 assists, shooting 42.2%.
Friday, Jefferson did not attempt a three-pointer and had only one assist in her 15 minutes.
"When we're at our best our offense is balanced," Reeve said. "We're able to take and make perimeter shots. We didn't get many threes off Friday [the Lynx were 4-for-13]. That will be hard Sunday as well."