There really was no other choice, Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said.
Her team entered Thursday’s game against Dallas at Target Center two games under .500, having lost three in a row and were coming off a stretch of six of eight games on the road.
Back home for a four-game homestand — the longest of the season — Reeve looked at it as a season-defining stretch. Those losses? Forget about them. Road weary? Rest up.
“We didn’t have a choice,” Reeve said. “Whatever they may have been feeling, in terms of six out of eight, being tired, being mentally beat up a little bit, whatever they were feeling they had to put aside.”
This was a good start: an 86-70 victory over Dallas. Minnesota started the first quarter on a 12-3 run, the second on a 11-0 run and the third on a 11-3 spurt, building a 23-point lead.
On a night when Minnesota’s Napheesa Collier made another strong bid for Rookie of the Year over Dallas’ Arike Ogumbowale (more on that later), the Lynx started their season-defining homestand with an impressive victory.
“This is pretty much make or break us,” said center Sylvia Fowles (12 points), one of four Lynx starters in double figures. “We were going to show up.”
Put back into the starting lineup, guard Danielle Robinson drew the duty of slowing Ogunbowale. The Lynx game plan also had a big — usually Damiris Dantas — help trap the Dallas guard whenever possible.
Robinson scored 14 points, tied for the team lead with seven rebounds and had three steals.
Ogunbowale scored 22 points, but shot only 6-for-14 with five turnovers and was a minus-19. Allisha Gray (16 points) was the only other Wings starter in double figures.
The Lynx, on the other hand, turned 17 Wings turnovers into 23 points and outrebounded Dallas 35-25, with a guard (Robinson) tied for the team lead in rebounds while a power forward (Dantas) had a team-high eight assists to go with 17 points.
And then, the rookie duel.
Collier and Ogunbowale are the top two Rookie of the Year candidates. Collier led the Lynx with 19 points, with five rebounds, four steals and a block.
“She still found a way to get some buckets,” Reeve said of Ogunbowale. “But the effort on her was pretty good. And, obviously, our rookie was even better. Once again, she just does it all. I thought that was a statement game from Napheesa.”
And, perhaps, a statement game from the Lynx (14-15), whose homestand will get tougher with Sunday’s game against Las Vegas.
“We take so much pride in our home games,” Collier said. “To come out with a bang like this? I think it was great for us.”
The Lynx are now in a virtual tie for seventh place in the league — percentage points ahead of Phoenix.
After Sunday’s game with Las Vegas, Minnesota hosts Chicago, Phoenix and then Indiana before finishing the season with two road games.
“These four games give us an opportunity to gain momentum,” Robinson said. “We’ll see what happens.”