Lynx fall in season opener to Phoenix 77-75

For a few moments, it looked as if none of it would matter:

The ice-cold start. The annoying turnovers. The dearth of defensive rebounds. Trying to be a cohesive team while playing with someone they’ve never even practiced with.

For a few moments.

Friday at Target Center, in the WNBA season opener against Phoenix, playing at home in front of fans for the first time since Sept. 1, 2019, the Lynx had a one-point lead, the ball coming out of a timeout and 31.4 seconds left to close the door.

It didn’t happen.

“We had so many mistakes,” Aerial Powers said. “We should have won the game.”

A broken play, a turnover, a frozen clock and a deadly shot. Crystal Dangerfield lost control of the ball at one end, and Diana Taurasi drained a three-pointer with 6.8 seconds left to give Phoenix a 77-75 victory.

No, wait. It was with 1.1 seconds.

No, wait. For, like, 12 minutes while the trio of officials, armed with a stopwatch, tried to figure that one out.

No, really, they had no idea. Seems the clock froze from the moment Brianna Turner got control of the ball in the Minnesota paint. She got the ball to Taurasi, who raced down court and hit the three.

Ultimately, the refs determined the shot came with 1.1 seconds left. The Lynx were unable to get a late shot off.

“Not the execution we wanted,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said of her team’s final play. “It’s just part of the growing pains of not having a group together. They improvised a bit, the play broke, the ball got into Crystal’s hands, and then Crystal ended up coughing it up. And then we didn’t get back in transition and let Diana shoot a three.”

That the Lynx were in position to win is surprising, considering Kayla McBride was playing without ever having practiced with the Lynx. Her season in Turkey ended Tuesday. She was in Minneapolis by Wednesday afternoon. It wasn’t until just before the game the league decided that, because she’s already had COVID-19, and had multiple negative tests since her return, that she could play.

She started and was the best Lynx player, scoring 17 points. “I wanted to be there tonight,” she said. “No matter the circumstances.”

But Napheesa Collier is still in France. Powers had been in camp, but hadn’t played in the preseason. So it’s understandable the team shot 10-for-37 while falling behind by nine at the half.

Reeve said the team was tense. She admitted to trying to slow the pace in the first half. In the second, she turned the Lynx loose.

That’s when McBride scored eight of her 17, Powers 14 of her 18 and Dangerfield 13 of her 17 points. The Lynx were within two entering the fourth. They held two brief leads down the stretch, the last when Sylvia Fowles (11 points, 11 rebounds) scored on a put-back with 42.6 seconds left.

Brittney Griner had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Phoenix. Skylar Diggins-Smith scored 18. Taurasi had 14 points and eight rebounds.

“We got beat in this game,” Reeve said. “Outrebounded [42-36], allowed 46 points in the paint. They made plays. We got beat. We put ourselves in a position to beg for the officials to get it right, and that’s never a good place to be in.”

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