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Lynx 91, Sparks 86: A Win as Sweet as Syl

The Minnesota Lynx rode the bench late while coming back to top the Los Angeles Sparks for the first home win of the season on Sylvia Fowles night.

Los Angeles Sparks v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx wrapped up a two-game homestand and celebratory weekend against the Los Angeles Sparks on Sunday night at Target Center, the same night the franchise honored and celebrated Sylvia Fowles on her jersey retirement night.

In honor of Sweet Syl, Minnesota came back late and took down Los Angeles thanks to a second-half comeback sparked by the bench unit. The Lynx pulled out a 91-86 win to improve to 2-7 on the season while grabbing their first home win of the 2023 season.

Sunday’s game opened up in a back-and-forth battle with both teams shooting north of 40 percent from the field while entering halftime knotted up at 43-43. In the second half, Los Angeles pulled out in front and led by as much as 11 points, but Minnesota’s bench lifted the Lynx late to come back and come out on top.

Coming Back Late

The Sparks looked to be well on their way to a win Sunday while spoiling Fowles’ night and handing the Lynx another close, late-game loss. That was until Minnesota caught fire with three minutes remaining to completely turn the game around.

The Lynx, led by the second unit, ended up going on a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter and finished the final three and a half minutes by outscoring the Sparks 19-3 to claw back and take the game at home.

“Everybody wanted this game knowing we lost our last couple games under five points. It’s just showing the grit and staying together.” Tiffany Mitchell said after the win. “We were all connected and said ‘we’re still here, we’re still in this game.’ Collectively, we all looked at each other and had that refuse-to-lose attitude, and it showed.”

Riding the Bench

Minnesota starters set the tone early and kept the team in the game over the first half of the contest, but the Lynx second unit ended up being the difference-maker late to propel the team to its second win of the year.

Minnesota’s bench outscored Los Angeles’ 26-9, with players like Bridget Carleton and Nina Milic stepping up big in the fourth quarter and hitting key shots late. Milic finished with a bench-leading 10 points and four rebounds, Carleton tallied nine points and Rachel Banham had five points for the Lynx.

“Their play was crucial,” Cheryl Reeve said of the Lynx bench. “A 19-3 run to finish to get us into the 90’s, I’m super excited about that, we haven’t seen that to this point with our team.”

Strong Guard Play

The guards on both sides shined during Sunday’s contest, with Tiffany Mitchell and Kayla McBride both sharing that load for Minnesota and Jordin Canada and Lexie Brown holding that role for Los Angeles.

Mitchell finished with a season-high-tying 17 points along with a season-best five assists over 26 minutes while McBride posted 13 points, three rebounds and three assists for the Lynx. Brown lit it up from three for the Sparks against her former team, tallying 21 points and four assists to go along with 18 points, eight assists and four rebounds from Canada.

“I know I’m always going to be aggressive and look for myself first, then just read the defense. If I can’t have a shot for myself, that’s when you have to make a decision in a split second to find my teammates cutting or in the corner,” Mitchell said. “I’m always going to have that aggressive mindset from the beginning.”

Outside of those players, Collier had another sensational game for Minnesota while posting a team-high 24 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in 36 minutes. For Los Angeles, Nneka Ogwumike shined with 27 points, eight boards and three assists in 35 minutes.

Honoring Sweet Syl

A game after the Lynx honored their top 25 players in franchise history during Friday’s All 25 Team celebration, they honored one of the greatest centers of all time while retiring Sylvia Fowles’ jersey after facing the Sparks.

Fowles had her No. 34 Lynx jersey retired during an on-court ceremony post-game, joining fellow teammates Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus as the only players in franchise history to have their numbers retired and hung from the Target Center rafters.

“What does it mean to me to see Syl’s number go up in the rafters? It obviously means a lot,” Reeve said. “You don’t see jerseys retired very often, so it’s pretty incredible. She’s been everything we hoped she’d be and then some.”

Next Up

After a two-game homestand, Minnesota will hit the road for a two-game road trip against Los Angeles and Las Vegas this weekend. The Lynx take on the Sparks at 9PM on Friday before facing the Aces at 8PM on Sunday.