It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win nonetheless.
After an ugly showing in the first half of action to kick off the 2020 WNBA season on Sunday afternoon at IMG Academy, the Minnesota Lynx used a fourth-quarter comeback to pull out a 77-69 victory in the season opener against the Connecticut Sun.
The Lynx had a hard time finding their groove early on in the first two quarters against the Sun in Bradenton, Fla., falling behind Connecticut 37-28 going into halftime while struggling on the offensive side of the floor for a large amount of the first half.
In the second half, Minnesota flipped a switch and outscored Connecticut 49-32 behind a big fourth quarter to steal the game and improve to 1-0 early on in the 22-game season.
“We have a long way to go, there’s no doubt about that. Win the game and let’s talk about what we have to get better at, that was the goal,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said after the game. “The only thing I feel good about is we won the game. We have so far to go in putting this thing together.”
The Lynx will look to make it two in a row when they return to action at 9 p.m. CT on Tuesday against the Seattle Storm on CBS Sports Network and Fox Sports North PLUS. The game will be a rematch of the first-round contest in the 2019 WNBA Playoffs.
Let’s take a deeper look at Sunday’s comeback victory with some key takeaways from an odd performance from Minnesota.
LYNX USE STRONG FOURTH QUARTER TO BATTLE BACK
Going into the fourth quarter trailing by seven, Minnesota went on a tear early and often during the final 10 minutes to grab a lead at the midway point and not look back.
Behind a 12-2 run to start the final frame, the Lynx grabbed their first lead of the game with 6:21 left to play and ended up holding a 27-12 advantage in the fourth to pull out an eight-point victory.
“We weren’t going to give up. We just believed if we could get three in a row stops somewhere in there, we could kind of get back in the game and hang in there,” Reeve said postgame. “I didn’t know if we could win, but your goal with five minutes to go is to have a chance to win the game and we were in a position to do that.”
The trio of Sylvia Fowles, Napheesa Collier and rookie Crystal Dangerfield were huge in the final 10 minutes for Minnesota, pushing the Lynx over the hump to complete the comeback. After being held scoreless in the first half, Collier and Dangerfield combined to score 21 points in the second half alone.
Ideally, Minnesota won’t have to wait until the fourth quarter moving forward to get back into the game and pull ahead, but better late than never.
FOWLES MADE A DIFFERENCE ON AND OFF THE FLOOR
The best player in the game for Minnesota was its veteran center.
Fowles was solid on both ends of the floor for the Lynx, helping lead the team at creating in the post while also being a dominant defensive presence down low.
The veteran leader also made a difference in the locker room to help spark the second-half comeback, admitting she got vocally upset during halftime to try and wake her teammates up.
“I talked to Cheryl at halftime and she was explaining to me that I wasn’t doing enough and had to get into my groove. I had to step outside of myself and do Syl-like things,” Fowles said after the game. “I think (my teammates) kind of seen me get pissed at halftime, so everybody just wanted to go out and do their part.”
The veteran center finished the contest with her fifth consecutive double-double to open up a season and her WNBA record 163rd career double-double, tallying 17 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks for Minnesota. Fowles is now just seven rebounds shy of becoming the WNBA’s all-time leader in career rebounds, a record currently held by Lynx assistant coach Rebekkah Brunson (3,356).
“Syl has been an exceptional leader,” Reeve said. “It sure would have been easy to fold up the tent and not feel very good, but Syl just didn’t let us do that.”
COLLIER STRUGGLES EARLY, EMERGES IN THE FOURTH
In her first game of her sophomore campaign, Collier had an odd performance for Minnesota highlighted by a rough first three quarters and a turnaround fourth quarter.
The 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year dealt with foul trouble for a majority of the game, forcing her to sit for a bulk of the first half and basically the first three quarters of Sunday’s contest. She was held scoreless with just one shot in the opening two quarters against the Sun.
“I was really frustrated, but I had to just put that aside and do whatever I could to help the team,” Collier said after the game. “I wasn’t performing the way that I should, but I just had to keep fighting through it.”
In the second half and most notably in the fourth quarter, Collier broke onto the scene and wound up playing a huge role in Minnesota’s comeback victory. In the second half alone, she managed to record all 11 of her points and added eight rebounds and four assists even after fouling out with a few minutes to play.
“She was just awful for three quarters. We were letting her know,” Reeve said. “We know Napheesa Collier is never going to quit. She is going to leave it all out there and whatever happens, happens. She made her own breaks. She was a big reason why we won the game. That’s Napheesa Collier for you.”
DANGERFIELD STEP UP TO LEAD GUARD GROUP
With question marks surrounding how the Lynx guard unit would look going into a new season, one player who stepped up immediately to open the year was the rookie Dangerfield.
Dangerfield was held scoreless coming off the bench in the first half, but exploded in the second half and in the fourth quarter while finding a groove in her first professional game.
“I just listened to what coach said about it just being basketball and to go out there and just play basketball,” Dangerfield said post-game. “We were right where we wanted to be in the game and we were able to pull it out and get the win.”
In nearly 21 minutes of action, Dangerfield recorded all 10 of her points in the second half for Minnesota, finishing the contest with 10 points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal while also tallying a plus/minus of plus-17.
Behind Shenise Johnson, who ended the game with 13 points as the starting point guard, Dangerfield might already be carving out a key role within the Lynx rotation following a stellar WNBA debut Sunday.
“Crystal changed the game,” Reeve said. “She really increased in her confidence and what she was doing. We probably don’t win without Crystal’s minutes today.”