MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Lynx insist they weren’t looking ahead or glancing at the out-of-town scoreboard. They had all they could handle right in front of them in the desperate Chicago Sky.
Maya Moore scored 17 points and the Lynx closed with an 11-0 run to beat the Sky 74-64 on Thursday night for their 11th straight victory. Lindsay Whalen added 14 points for Minnesota (24-6), which trailed 64-63 in the final two minutes.
"Early in the season we would’ve lost, in games where our offense wasn’t sharp, we would lose those games by a few possessions," said Moore, who has been the Western Conference Player of the Week for a month running. "I think this speaks to the improvement we’ve made, knowing who we are and going out and doing what it takes to win games like that."
Minnesota’s victory, coupled with Phoenix’s overtime win in San Antonio, means the Lynx still trail the Mercury by 1 1/2 games in the race for the Western Conference title. The two teams meet in Phoenix on Saturday.
"If we’re not better in Phoenix, this really will become a non-story," said Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, frustrated by her team’s defensive breakdowns versus Chicago. "Phoenix will drill us if we have that same defensive lackluster attention to detail."
Allie Quigley led the Sky (13-17) with 20 points, but their chances of an Eastern Conference playoff spot suffered a real blow. They opened the second half on a 9-0 run to take their first lead.
"What was good for me is that we have normally struggled coming out in the third quarter," Sky coach Pokey Chatman said. "So it was nice to get on that run. But 38 minutes against a great team is not good."
Chicago shot just 24 percent in the opening 20 minutes, trailing 30-24 at halftime. Quigley came off the bench to lead all scorers at the break with 10 for the Sky, who are back to near full strength. Elena Delle Donne played 16 minutes and finished with two points for Chicago in her fourth game since returning from a recurrence of Lyme disease. They entered the game a half-game up on New York for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
"We just crumbled," Quigley said. "We played 36-38 minutes of good basketball and the last two minutes we just didn’t execute, and against that team you can’t play anything less than 40 minutes."
The Lynx, 14-1 at home. managed just one offensive rebound in the first half but still managed to lead by as many as 12 at one point in the opening 20 minutes.
"Hey, whatever works at this time of the season," Whalen said. "You can’t script it. If you get a win at the end of the season against a team fighting for a playoff spot, that’s a good thing."
Epiphanny Prince added 18 points for the Sky, who entered the game on a three-game winning streak. They host Atlanta on Sunday.