The Lynx returned to play after an emotionally charged week headlined by the temporary postponement of their season. The win over Atlanta was payback for the dispiriting loss the Dream served Minnesota on Sunday. In that game the Lynx were out-rebounded and out-hustled in the second half and Minnesota lost despite being up 13 points. The rematch featured a similar first half with the Lynx seizing control early on. The difference Friday night was the lack of a second half letdown. Napheesa Collier was wonderful Friday night with 19 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.
“I think we did a way better job of rebounding and not letting up,” Collier said postgame. “I think we got kinda complacent last game and we know that obviously they could come back and win if we didn’t play our ‘A’ game. We really tried to make an effort to not let that happen.”
The Lynx cleaned up their rebounding in a big way and held a 40-34 advantage over Atlanta in that department. The difference was especially felt on the offensive glass where the Lynx pulled down 11 o-boards which provided them an extra 17 points. Collier is fourth league-wide in offensive rebounds per game and tallied five on Friday. Additionally she typically has a few plays each night where she contributes to keeping the possession alive even if she’s not credited with the rebound.
For the first time this season Odyssey Sims shared the backcourt with Crystal Dangerfield for long stretches. It was an experiment that worked well as Sims put forward her best performance since joining the team two weeks ago. An acclimation period was to be expected and while it may be unrealistic to get games like this from Sims every night, it was a positive step for a player who gave birth four months ago. She excelled operating in pick and roll either by bursting to the rim or by “snaking” the action, getting her defender on her back and making plays. Sims nearly finished with a triple double scoring 17 points, dishing nine assists and grabbing seven rebounds in a season high 26 minutes.
Meanwhile Dangerfield added fuel to her Rookie of the Year fire by leading all scorers with 23 points. She didn’t have an amazing shooting night from the floor but got to the line ten times and made nine of those shots. It was illuminating to see these Sims and and Dangerfield operate together, trading off ball handling duties and spacing out the floor. A Wolf Among Wolves’ Lucas Seehafer asked Cheryl Reeve about the pair after the game.
“Its not unlike last year. Danielle (Robinson) and Odyssey were starters in the backcourt so its kinda the look that we’ve known…The value of it is you can do different things where maybe we tried to run a play and Crystal was covered and Odyssey can be a play maker. I like that Crystal can shoot it, Odyssey can penetrate it, I think we get the floor spaced. So I think Odyssey likes it as well as far as the pieces around her when she’s playing with Crystal, Damiris (Dantas) and Bridget (Carleton). That’s really good for her because she can get into a small space and obviously she’s really good at finding where the help came from and getting shooters the ball.”
It was a good bounce back win for the team after losing to the Dream on Sunday and having a week that was by all accounts extremely emotionally draining. The season must go on and every team must balance the grueling condensed schedule with the troubled state of the world outside the Bradenton Bubble.
Atlanta’s Betnijah Laney led the Dream in scoring yet again. It’s been eye opening to see her in back to back games. She impacts the game on both ends and is a high energy player who does a little bit of everything. She’s a shoo-in for most the WNBA’s improved player award.
Number four overall pick Chennedy Carter returned to the Atlanta lineup on Friday. She didn’t make a big impact on the game but after being away for a few weeks its good to see her back on the floor.
Free throws were another big reason why the Lynx won this game. They were 23/25 from the line while Atlanta was 11/16. Minnesota is third in attempts per game and FT%.
Minnesota faces off against Phoenix on Sunday. Brittney Griner has left the WNBA bubble for a personal matter. It’s looking like another matchup between two teams without their all star centers. Tip off is 5pm CT.
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