For most of the last three quarters Tuesday at Target Center the Lynx just couldn't hit a shot.
Sometimes that was because the offense got stagnant. The ball stuck. Other times the shots. Just. Wouldn't. Fall.
And so: Plan B.
Down eight early in the fourth quarter to New York, two things happened: Minnesota dug in and defended. And then Kayla McBride and Aerial Powers got aggressive, got to the free-throw line, got the job done.
The final: Minnesota 84-78 in a game between two desperate teams. For the Lynx (2-6), back home after a 1-2 road trip, this was crucial.
"We were not losing," McBride said afterward, when asked the mind-set with the Lynx down eight points with 8:47 left to play, thanks to a 23-6 New York run dating back to the third quarter. "The last couple days we've watched the film. We've talked about what we wanted to do. We just grinded it out. We haven't figured out how to win like that, as a group, until today. We took a big step today. These were two desperate teams. But we figured out a way to win."
This on a night when the Lynx shot 14-for-53 over the final three quarters, allowed New York (1-5) to turn their 10 turnovers into 18 points.
Here's how: With defense. The Lynx held New York to 39.4% shooting, the first opponent under 40% this season. Eight times they got three straight stops on the defensive end, crucial when points aren't coming easy on offense. And the Lynx rebounded, a 45-39 edge total, 12-9 on the offensive boards. New York made just four of 16 shots, with five turnovers, while scoring 13 fourth-quarter points.
"We were down eight, but it was our defense that got us there," coach Cheryl Reeve said of her team's 21-7 finish to the game, with 13 of those points coming from the free-throw line. "It was the first time all season where our defense really helped us."
Four of five Lynx starters were in double figures. Powers had 18, going 12-for-14 from the line. She also had nine rebounds. Sylvia Fowles, battling double teams, had 14 points and 14 boards. McBride scored seven of her 15 points from the line. Moriah Jefferson scored 12 points before sitting for most of the fourth quarter after Reeve felt she was fatigued.
Rachel Banham came in and led the team down the stretch; she was a plus-13 in the fourth quarter.
Rebecca Allen scored 21 for New York, Natasha Howard 23. But in the fourth quarter, they combined for just four points.
Powers and McBride combined to shoot 2-for-9 in the fourth quarter. But they each scored seven points by each hitting five of six free throws.
The Lynx were within five after two Powers free throws when Jessica Shepard cut and scored off a Banham pass with 5:40 left.
Two Powers free throws with 4:27 left made it a two-point game and two more by Banham on the next possession tied the game. After Sabrina Ionescu hit a three-pointer, McBride scored, stole the ball from Ionescu and fed Fowles on the break and the Lynx were in the lead for good.
Two free throws by McBride with 15.9 points left iced it.
"I don't think we were focused on free throws, we were focused on getting to the basket, and they fouled a lot," Powers said.
Since returning from Dallas after Saturday's loss, Reeve talked about wanting more grit, more passion, from her team. She got it Tuesday.
"I thought we competed at a higher level," she said. "Now we just have to keep building on it.''