Sylvia Fowles scored 26 points, 15 more than any of her teammates.
She grabbed 10 rebounds, leading her team.
She blocked three shots and had four steals, producing game bests in both categories.
She scored seven points in a stretch of 2:40 in the fourth quarter, helping the Lynx pull away for a 70-61 victory in the season opener over Chicago on Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center.
Fowles could have celebrated her statistical dominance. Her coach could have saved corrections for the next practice.
But one of the hallmarks of the Lynx during a decade of excellence has been a mind-set best described as optimistic realism. So Cheryl Reeve didn’t spend her postgame news conference praising Fowles, who is the WNBA’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year as well as a frequent offensive force.
Reeve instead pushed the buttons of a player who will be crucial to her team this season, while offering reminders of the still-painful deciding loss in the WNBA Finals.
Before games, Reeve eagerly promotes her league. After games, she incisively critiques her team.
“Sylvia was great and then she was awful and then she was great, for 26 points and 10 rebounds,” Reeve said. “She got five offensive, which was great, and only five defensive.
“We needed more defensive rebounding. You look at the video we showed them at halftime, we have four players in there rebounding and the fifth you can’t even see on the screen. And more than once that fifth player is wearing [Fowles’] No. 34 for us. So she easily should have had 10 rebounds that were defensive.
“That’s not something I said behind her back. That is something I have said to her.”
The assessment of “great … awful … great” was relayed to Fowles. She smiled. “I know exactly what she’s talking about,” Fowles said. “Yes, I agree. It was pretty bad. I looked at her at some point and she was just like, ‘Aaaah!’ ”
It was an ugly game. Maya Moore made one of 11 three-point attempts. The Lynx finished 3-for-20 from three-point range and shot only 37 percent from the field. A team known for prolific scoring had trouble pulling away from an overmatched opponent.
“We just got outrebounded,” Reeve said. “That can’t happen. Not when the last game you played in 2016, you lost a game on offensive rebounds. You’re going to come out and not rebound? That can’t happen.”
The Lynx set, and enforce, high standards, but if you are anyone other than Fowles’ coach it was easy to appreciate what she contributed. She went 9-for-15 from the floor and 8-for-10 from the line. Had she been any less efficient, the outcome may have been in doubt in the last couple of minutes.
Lynx players other than Fowles shot 18-for-58 (31 percent) from the floor and took only seven free throws.
Fowles has described her own tendency to become frustrated on the court as “psycho mode.”
Lindsay Whalen, the quintessential Minnesota athlete, was told this. She offered a quintessential Minnesota response: “Oh,” she said. “OK.”
Whalen changed the subject. “I thought Syl was on another level tonight,” she said. “I thought Syl was awesome. I thought she was great. She really carried us, right from the get-go. Back to the basket, putting the ball in.”
Before the game, Reeve admitted she felt nostalgic, starting another season with her cast of world-class players. On opening night, only one of them produced a robust statistical performance, and that player drew her coach’s wrath.
High standards chafe.
“It’s unacceptable,” Reeve said. “Not what we do. When you see things like that, you have to put it on the coach, because I didn’t emphasize things. That will change.”
What probably will remain the same is the challenge of tutoring a world-class post player capable of winning a game, putting up big numbers and still causing her coach to say, “Aaaah!”
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. firstname.lastname@example.org