It wasn't exactly Michael Jordan's "Flu Game." A 93-87 loss to Western Conference-leading Las Vegas in the sixth game of the season for the WNBA's last-place Lynx didn't quite have the same gravity.
But for Aerial Powers, it might as well have been.
Playing sick, Powers broke out of a major shooting slump with a season-high 25 points and six assists, her most in a Lynx jersey. Before the game, forward Bridget Carleton and coach Cheryl Reeve reminded Powers of Jordan's 38-point performance in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals.
"It's funny because I texted Michael Jordan last night," Powers said. "I told him, 'I'm shooting bad. I'm in a shooting slump. I've never been in a shooting slump before. I'm shooting before practice, I'm shooting after practice, I'm shooting at shootaround, I'm just shooting extra shots, it's not like I'm not getting reps.'
"He said, 'stop pressing, relax more and let the game come to you,'" Powers said.
The game came to Powers Thursday. Her scoring outburst tied the Aces' Jackie Young for the most points on the court on an efficient 9-of-21 (42.9%) from the floor.
Through the first five games of the season, Powers had shot 24.6% on field goals and 13.3% from three-point range. She hit all four of her three-point attempts against the Aces.
"Every miss just felt heavier and heavier," Powers said. "And when I talked to MJ, he was just like, 'relax. This is what you do. It's OK to miss shots.'"
However, Powers' breakthrough game wasn't enough to get past the high-octane Aces. Las Vegas hit its first nine shots of the game, including four from beyond the arc, for a new franchise record to start a game.
Young fueled the surge for Las Vegas, scoring 10 points on perfect shooting in the first quarter. She punctuated the Aces' 11-2 run off the tip with a timeout-forcing step-back three in front of a scrambling Minnesota defense.
The Aces went up as many as 11 points in the first quarter, one of 10 separate double-digit leads Las Vegas built, but Powers' offensive emergence sparked a 12-3 to pull the Lynx within one at the end of the frame.
"At key times where I thought we had some momentum, momentum got taken away," Reeve said. "You're on the road, and you're playing against a really good offensive team, and we were hanging in there. And then just those plays that kind of broke our back, whether it was a call or whether it was our own doing."
Powers helped the Lynx continue to crawl back from those large deficits, again making it a one-point game early in the fourth quarter but never got enough help to close the gap. Kayla McBride, who sparked Minnesota's first win of the season on Tuesday with 24 points straight off the plane from Turkey, scored no points and committed four personal fouls in 21 minutes. No bench player eclipsed four points.
Reeve pointed to the foul disparity for Minnesota's failure to take a lead.
"It's games like these, you need the officiating to be a little more balanced," Reeve said. "We're not a team that fouls, and at halftime we had just eight fouls. We finished with 21. So, you always need some breaks, which they certainly got."
Lynx guard Evina Westbrook received a flagrant foul for contact against Young midway through the fourth quarter as one of those 21 fouls, while Las Vegas finished with 15.
"I try to hold my composure as much as possible because I know when I flip my wig, it kind of takes me out of the game, but it does get frustrating not to get calls," center Sylvia Fowles said. "I guess because it's not getting impacted or I'm still getting the shot up, they don't consider it a foul. But I guess I need to start throwing my head and folding and screaming, which is so out of my comfort zone. But if I have to do it, I have to do it because a foul is a foul."
Fowles finished with 20 points of her own, many coming on nice high-low connections inside with Powers. She was encouraged by Powers' play Thursday.
"AP is coming along and playing her game very well," Fowles said. "And so, I think them knocking down shots on the perimeter helped me inside."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.