Lynx drop regular-season finale to finish with No. 6 playoff seed

Minnesota needed a win and a little help to nab the No. 5 seed in the WNBA playoffs and a seemingly more winnable first-round matchup against Dallas.

It got the help. It did not get the win.

The Lynx dropped their regular-season finale 87-72 to the Indiana Fever on Sunday in Indianapolis, securing Minnesota’s first-round date with third-seeded Connecticut.

Atlanta, which lost Sunday to Dallas, still grabbed the No. 5 seed by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreak with Minnesota and will meet the Wings in Round 1.

Connecticut won 27 games this season. Dallas won 22.

So Sunday was certainly a missed opportunity for the Lynx (19-21), who lost to a 13-win team. The score was tied 67-67 with eight minutes to play, but the Fever (13-27) closed the game on a 20-5 run.

Game 1 of Minnesota’s best-of-three series with the Sun is set for Wednesday in Connecticut. Only a decisive Game 3, if necessary, would be played in Minneapolis. The Lynx went 1-3 against the Sun (27-13) in four regular-season meetings.

If the Lynx want to punch up to Connecticut’s level in the playoff series, they’ll have to finish games better than they did Sunday. Minnesota shot 2 for 13 from the field in the fourth quarter in Indiana, while committing six turnovers over the final 10 minutes.

“Pretty darn disappointing,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “That’s about the nicest thing I have to say. Pretty darn disappointing.”

On the other end, Minnesota had no answer for rookie forward Aliyah Boston. The No. 1 overall pick of the 2023 draft scored 12 of her 19 points in the final period. She also had 12 rebounds on the day.

Erica Wheeler scored 24 points to lead Indiana, which entered the day already eliminated from playoff contention. Indiana topped Minnesota in all three of the meetings between the two teams this summer.

“They acted like they had more to play for than we did,” Reeve said. “Awfully disappointing.”

Reeve lamented the lack of trust her players seem to have shown over the past two games — both losses — in the defensive game plan.

“It’s rooted in trust. How do you come out in the first quarter and give up 20 points in the paint, and then turn around and ask, ‘Oh, you want me to help? You want that (help defender) to be me?’ It’s a complete lack of focus and intentionality. And for us, competing for a playoff spot, it’s not about learning. That’s not about learning. That’s about doing what you’re told and what your job is and trust your coaches and do what you’re supposed to do.”

Napheesa Collier capped off an MVP-caliber regular season with a 23-point, 10-rebound performance for the Lynx, while Kayla McBride paced Minnesota with 24 points. Diamond Miller added 11 points, but no other Lynx player scored more than four points.

“It’s a disappointing end for us,” Collier said. “Just not playing with the intensity that we need, I think — that grit. We were playing hard, but we weren’t playing hard enough. And that’s the difference, because they were playing hard enough. We’re the one that’s still playing for our season, so I think that’s a disappointing end for us, and something we’ve got to fix before Wednesday.”

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