It took time, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve conceded. There were tough times, both with the health and the chemistry of the team. Too many losses.
But, ultimately, maybe the Lynx could be onto something.
The latest evidence: Thursday’s 100-88 win over Phoenix at Target Center on a night when the Lynx were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX legislation and the return of center Sylvia Fowles. They shot better than 50%. They set season highs for first-half points (60) and total points. Spacing and flow developed while a cartilage issue in Fowles’ right knee kept her out of action for five games that remained in effect upon her return.
So after a second win over Phoenix in three days — the Lynx have won 18 of their last 21 against Phoenix — the Lynx have a decent winning streak. And maybe a direction.
“For me as a coach, chemistry-wise, it’s as good as it’s been all season,” Reeve said. “We really had to face real challenges in this regard. But we have made progress.”
Fowles came back knowing her knee likely won’t be 100 per cent the rest of the season, with a minute limit – “We’ll see how long that lasts,” she said. “I’ve been down this road before.” — and a palpable level of energy. She scored 14 points with 10 rebounds in 22 minutes.
Fowles said the team really started to come together four games ago. It was during a morning shootout before a game with Seattle – one the Lynx lost by two runs – that the team had what Fowles called heart-to-heart talks about what to do. to win. That loss was followed by a heartbreaking one-point loss to first-place Las Vegas.
And now two wins. Reeve said the feeling was different. Instead of coaches arguing for effort during timeouts, it’s the players saying it. On the field, opponents’ runs are shortened and then answered.
This was the case on Thursday. The Lynx used a 20-2 run from the end of the first quarter into the second to go up 14. They led until 16. Six times the rest of the way, the Mercury (6-12) cut that lead to less than 10. But they never got closer than six, and each time the Lynx responded.
All five starters scored in double figures for Minnesota (5-13), led by point guard Moriah Jefferson, who had 21 points and five assists. She also had five turnovers, something Reeve was on her for most of the game.
Damiris Dantas and Kayla McBride each scored 15 points and Aerial Powers scored 12.
But the Lynx reserves – led by nine points and nine rebounds from Jessica Shepard – outscored the Mercury bench 23-11.
Depth and balance.
“It’s everybody putting it on the line,” Fowles said. “We’re sticking to that.”
The Lynx had a 42-23 advantage in rebounding, 11-2 on offensive glass, an 18-4 advantage in second chance points and a 46-30 advantage in points in the paint while managing to put up eight three-pointers. .
Jefferson is starting to really feel at home with the Lynx. Dantas is regaining form after missing nearly a year with a foot injury to Lisfranc. The team plays a connected style of basketball that was missing for much of the first few weeks of the season.
“I think it was just about continuing to find that chemistry,” Jefferson said. “Getting through those difficult situations has really brought us closer together.”
With Fowles back, the Lynx had to terminate Nikolina Milic’s hardship contract. But chances are the Lynx will find a way to keep Milic – who was on the bench in street clothes on Thursday night – with the team. This development could occur as early as next week.
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