Sylvia Fowles’ stats line — 14 points, six rebounds, five blocked shots — said plenty about the Lynx’s 83-65 victory over the Atlanta Dream Wednesday afternoon.
Her face said even more.
Playing a team-high 33 minutes, the 6-6 center was a commanding presence inside against a team known for its rugged play. Those types of teams, Fowles said, always get her attention.
“It’s any team that’s coming in, trying to prove a point,” Fowles said through slightly-squinted eyes and a mouth turned up at the corners in a bemused smirk. “Atlanta is very edgy. They have a chip on their shoulder and a lot to prove. They were coming into our house, and we just wanted to keep our streak going.”
Fowles was referring to the Lynx’ current winning streak, which grew to five in a row with only one game left, Friday against Seattle, before a monthlong break for the Olympics.
It wasn’t only Fowles who was on her game in Wednesday’s matinee at Target Center. Frontcourt mate Rebekkah Brunson provided a one-two inside tandem with her second consecutive double-double (13 points, 12 rebounds). The duo gave the Lynx the muscle needed to counteract Atlanta’s full-steam-ahead approach.
“I was really pleased with our floor game,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Syl was really challenging and Brunson was really, really active.”
With their two bigs battling down low and reserve guards Renee Montgomery and Jia Perkins picking up the offensive slack while Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus struggled early, the Lynx barged out to a 40-28 halftime lead.
Moore never really did get on track, finishing with a season-low four points but adding four assists and four steals. Augustus came alive precisely when the team needed it, scoring 13 of her 19 points after halftime. The Dream had cut the Lynx lead to seven, 59-52, early in the fourth quarter when Augustus put the team on her shoulders, scoring nine of the Lynx’s points in a 12-4 run that essentially sealed the victory.
“I told Seimone after the game, when she’s engaged like she was today, we don’t lose,” Reeve said.
Montgomery, who finished with 12 points, her second consecutive game in double figures, said she just sat back and took in the show when Augustus got hot.
“I turned into a fan,” she said. “What Mo did today, it was incredible. She just has a way about her, so smooth. It was fun to watch.”
Augustus was 8-for-12 from the field and also had five assists.
With the victory, the Lynx (20-4) moved to within a half-game of Los Angeles (20-3) for the best record in the WNBA. In the revamped playoff format, the top two teams in the overall league standings get byes into the semifinals.
Camp Day draws well
The afternoon game drew an announced crowd of 16,132, the largest of the season and the byproduct of the Lynx’s Camp Day. Every team in the WNBA is required to have one, which is marketed toward local summer camps and youth organizations.
Reeve said the team relished the opportunity to influence girls and boys.
“It’s always a fun game to play in terms of the significance of having 16,132 people and of those, 16,000 are kids,” she said. “We’re kind of shaping the future in what we’re doing on the court. The beauty is not just about girls, but boys, too. All these young boys in the house, when they see strong, powerful women playing basketball, women in sport becomes the norm for them. They see women’s basketball as an equal.”
Fowles said she wished she’d have had the chance to see a WNBA game when she was young.
“I just wish I’d had that opportunity,” she said. “I was more into volleyball and track and field, but if I could have been in this setting, maybe basketball would have changed my mind-set at an earlier age.”