This is a matchup Sylvia Fowles loves. Not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.
Fowles, the Lynx center, and Phoenix center Brittney Griner have been doing battle since Griner went first overall in the 2013 WNBA draft. Two dominant players going at it in different ways.
“She makes you think,’’ Fowles said Sunday evening, after she broke the WNBA record for career double-doubles with a 14-point, 13-rebound performance in a 75-62 victory over the Mercury at Target Center. “She makes you go out there and do stuff that’s out of your [comfort zone], because she’s so long and agile. I look forward to those challenges.’’
It should be noted that Fowles has, more often than not, come out ahead.
And it was that way Sunday, in front of an announced crowd of 8,801 fans who stood and cheered when it was announced Fowles had secured her 158th career double-double — her 66th with the Lynx — passing former Los Angeles Sparks star Lisa Leslie for the top spot.
Fowles, who was 7-for-12 from the field, outscored and outrebounded Griner (12 points, five rebounds) and blocked two shots. Last week Griner was named an All-Star Game starter. When reserves are named Monday, Fowles — and perhaps Lynx guard Odyssey Sims — should be added to the list.
The Lynx secured the win with a dynamic second half in which they outscored Phoenix 39-27.
This was a team victory, to be sure. All five Lynx starters scored in double figures, and speaking of double-doubles, rookie Napheesa Collier (14 points, 11 rebounds) got her first as a pro.
Collier watched Mercury star DeWanna Bonner score 22 points in the first half, but she outscored Bonner 12-5 in the second, holding her to 1-for-7 shooting.
Bonner and Griner were the only Mercury players in double figures.
The Lynx (10-7), who played perhaps their worst game of the season in Friday’s loss in Atlanta, outrebounded Phoenix 48-24, the third-biggest margin in team history. They beat the Mercury in points scored in the paint (40-24) and on the break (14-6).
They have won six of eight games and remain in fourth place in the WNBA, 1 ½ games out of first. Phoenix (7-8), playing without Diana Taurasi (back injury), lost its second straight game.
The Lynx finished the third quarter with a 7-0 run capped by Collier’s three-point play, then scored the first six points of the fourth to go up 62-46 on Danielle Robinson’s jumper.
In a game where so much went well, it was the battle between Fowles — who grew up a Leslie fan — and Griner that stood out.
“I love watching those two play against each other,’’ Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I would tune into it every single time. They’re both just terrific, so good. They’re centers, but they do it differently. It’s a joy to watch. To perform so well against Griner, to now hold the first spot for double-doubles, it’s a great story.’’
And, for Fowles, a great feeling. Or, she said, it would be when she got home Sunday night, relaxed and let it all sink in. She has gotten a double-double in 49% of her 323 career games.
“I’m still in disbelief at this point, but it feels good,’’ Fowles said. “I feel my hard work has paid off.’’