Throughout the course of the preseason, rookie wing Napheesa Collier didn’t necessarily have eye-popping performances for the Minnesota Lynx, finishing with a total of 10 points and six rebounds in two games.
Apparently, the No. 6 overall pick out of Connecticut in this year’s WNBA Draft was saving it for Saturday night’s regular-season opener at Target Center.
Collier put on a show in her WNBA debut Saturday night against the Chicago Sky, leading the Lynx to an 89-71 win in their regular season opener.
The rookie — who got the start in her first career regular-season game — led Minnesota with a game-high 27 points (8-of-10 shooting from the field), six rebounds, three blocks, two steals and carried a plus-minus of plus-28 in a total of 33 minutes. Her 27 points are the most by any player in her WNBA debut since Candace Parker scored 34 points for Los Angeles in 2008.
“I think I just realized tonight that I was starting, the team was counting on me. I needed to go out there and play as aggressively as I can, so I wouldn’t be a liability for the team,” Collier told the media after the game. “I just tried to go out there and play as hard as I could.”
With a flood of new faces taking the floor for the Lynx to kick off the 2019 regular season, Minnesota struggled early on in the game, falling behind Chicago 24-22 after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, however, the Lynx jumped out in front and never looked back.
After carrying a 46-40 lead into halftime in Minneapolis, Minnesota went on to outscore Chicago 43-31 for the remainder of the game, including outscoring the Sky 24-10 in the third quarter.
Outside of Collier, four other Lynx players finished in double-figures to lead them to victory. Sylvia Fowles tallied a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, Danielle Robinson added 13 points and three rebounds, Odyssey Sims had 11 points, five assists and three rebounds and a Lexie Brown came off the bench to finish with 10 points.
“We didn’t really start defensively how we wanted, they were getting too many looks in the paint and too many layups, so that was something we talked about, making them hit outside shots,” Robinson told the media after the game. “I think our team hit our stride going into halftime. We knew that we had to limit the easy shots at the rim, whether that was courtside or more ball pressure.”
Minnesota, which was without starters Seimone Augustus (knee) and Karima Christmas-Kelly (knee) in the game, shot 44.1 percent (30 for 68) from the field and finished with a 30-percent mark (6 for 20) from deep. It also held a 46-29 advantage on the boards.
The Lynx did a nice job on the defensive end of the floor as well against the Sky, holding them to shooting 40 percent from the field and limiting Chicago to just 15 total free throw attempts. Minnesota also held Allie Quigley and Diamond DeShields — Chicago’s two leading scorers in 2018 — to a combined 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
After taking home the win in the regular season opener on Saturday, the Lynx will have the next few days off before they host the defending champion Seattle Storm at 7 p.m. Wednesday back at Target Center.
Multiple Milestones in Minnesota
Outside of Collier scoring the second-most points by a player making her WNBA debut in league history, there were a few other milestones that were reached on Saturday night in Minnesota’s win.
- Collier finished the game with three blocks, which ties the Lynx franchise record for most blocks in the regular season opener. Nicky Anosike was the other player to accomplish that for Minnesota in 2010.
- Rookie forward Jessica Shepard also made her WNBA debut alongside Collier on Saturday, finishing with a nice all-around performance of three points, 13 rebounds and a team-high six assists. Her 13 rebounds are the most by any player in her WNBA debut since DeTrina White hauled in 13 rebounds for New York in 2004.
- With 11 points in her Lynx debut, Sims became the 116th player in WNBA history to surpass the 2,000 career point mark in her career.
- Fowles finished with a double-double in the win for Minnesota, achieving the feat for the 150th time of her career. She recorded a double-double in 22 games in 2018.