Just 37.5 seconds remained Thursday at Target Center in a game still uncomfortably close. With the Lynx up four, center Sylvia Fowles went to the free throw line.
But, again, there was Rebekkah Brunson. Chasing down the ball, securing her 19th — 19th! — rebound of the evening, essentially sealing a 67-60 Lynx victory over Phoenix in Game 1 of the WNBA’s Western Conference finals at Target Center.
This opening game of the best-of-three series was decided down low. In the paint, where the pushing and shoving and elbows are. And that’s where they dominated, Brunson and Fowles.
Fowles, answering the challenge of guarding Mercury star Brittney Griner, scored 12 points with 14 rebounds and three blocks while holding Griner to nine points and six boards. And Brunson, who had 13 points, had seven offensive rebounds, and 12 on defense while playing all but one second of this offensively challenged game. She ended the night as the all-time offensive rebounding leader in the WNBA playoffs.
“Unbelievable,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said after Brunson had dominated the boards, at times rendering Phoenix forward Candice Dupree invisible. And Reeve meant it. You could tell by her expression as she looked at the final boxscore. “Our sponsorship people need to get on it. Right now. Curad, Band-Aid, something. She needs to be the face of that. There is not a bigger Band-Aid than what we experienced tonight with Bekkah.’’
Apparently the Windex account is already spoken for?
On a night when both teams shot south of 40 percent, with both teams turning the ball over 12 times, it was Brunson and Fowles who made the difference.
In the first quarter, with the Lynx off to a slow start, it was Brunson leading the way with five points. In the second, which began with an 18-2 run to give the Lynx a lead they never lost, it was Brunson getting eight rebounds, five on offense, which was a big reason the Lynx had eight second-chance points in the quarter.
The Lynx outrebounded Phoenix 44-30 and had a 15-5 edge on second-chance points.
“It’s important, it’s something I bring to this team,” said Brunson, whose posted the fourth-highest rebound total in WNBA playoff history. “It’s what makes my role special. I wanted to go out and do what I could.’’
She did enough. Maya Moore — who had shot 4-for-14 through three quarters, scored 10 of her 19 points down the stretch. Seimone Augustus, 3-for-11 through three, was 3-for-3 for six points in the fourth.
Basically, Brunson and Fowles held the fort until Moore and Augustus got going.
“Band-Aid Brunson, coin it,” said Moore, whose three-pointer with 1:10 left made it a nine-point game.
Phoenix forward DeWanna Bonner scored 21 points. She hit two late three-pointers, the second coming with 38.5 seconds left, trimming the margin to four. That’s when Fowles was fouled. That’s when Brunson did it again.
“That Brunson rebound, that killed us,” Bonner said. “Rebounding is why we lost the game.’’
The Lynx improved to 19-2 all-time in home playoff games, winning their 10th straight. The Lynx had an impressive 38-18 edge on points in the paint. Phoenix, which is now 0-4 in the playoffs at Target Center, scored a season-low 60 points.
“Rebekkah Brunson was a beast,” Phoenix coach Sandy Brondello said.
Yes, she is. “It feels really good,” Brunson said of her rebounding record. “It’s something I pride myself on. It feels even better knowing we got the win.’’