Natasha Howard leapt across the lane, getting a hand on Keisha Hampton’s miss and scoring.
Finally, Target Center patrons and the crew in blue and white could celebrate. The Lynx’s skid was over after they crushed the San Antonio Stars 91-68, with Howard fittingly putting a cap on the night with one final bucket.
After three consecutive losses, Minnesota (14-3) not only avoided extending its unexpected losing streak, it launched a campaign to remove all memory of it in a game that felt over before halftime — extending the glee of fans who wandered across the street after the Twins’ 17-5 romp over Texas on Saturday afternoon.
“Everybody in here knew that we needed to have a good game, that we needed to bounce back and play the way that we’re supposed to be playing,” forward Rebekkah Brunson said. “I think everybody was really hungry.”
That sentiment was certainly obvious throughout the frontcourt.
Three days after New York topped the Lynx with perimeter play, the story of the matchup with San Antonio (4-13) played out under the basket.
Reserve forward Natasha Howard scored 21 points — tying a career best — finding a form not yet seen this season. As a group, the Lynx outscored San Antonio 46-30 in the paint, where the Stars normally rule, and beat them on the boards 41-31.
In the game that marked the WNBA midway point, it was a rout in every sense of the word.
The night before, the Stars had seized an 87-85 overtime victory at Indiana for their first road win of the season. Saturday, they fell back down to earth.
The Lynx shot 52.3 percent from the field, holding the Stars to 33.3 percent, even as most of the fourth quarter belonged to Lynx reserves. They took a 19-12 lead at the end of the first quarter, extended their advantage to 47-28 at halftime and took a 30-point lead in the third.
In 40 minutes, they appeared to recapture the dominance that earned them a WNBA-record 13-0 start to the season before the recent rough patch.
“It’s really simple,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “The game is simple. It’s just a greater overall sense of urgency throughout the game.”
Minnesota, which has now beaten San Antonio in 13 consecutive games at Target Center, asserted its game plan early in its first meeting of the year with San Antonio. The Lynx locked down on the Stars defensively, getting stops inside and turning them into fast-break layups, quick passes in the paint or shots from the free throw line, where they made 21 of 24 attempts.
It felt like an unfair fight long before sharpshooter Kayla McBride, the Stars’ leading scorer, had to exit with an apparent knee injury in the third quarter.
The defending WNBA champions, full of the intensity they lacked one game earlier, started feeding center Sylvia Fowles (nine points, six rebounds) from the start and the barrage began.
Brunson chipped in, finishing with eight points and 12 rebounds, and Maya Moore, after another strong third quarter, added 14 points and five assists. But it was Howard who stole the show with a night full of pretty fadeaways and slick, spin moves at the basket.
She was 9-for-14 from the field in 23 minutes and also had five blocks.
“We didn’t want to lose tonight, so we played Lynx basketball,” said Howard, a third-year pro who was acquired in a February trade with Indiana. “We had a little chip on our shoulder.
“We got tired of losing those three games. So the leaders stepped up, and the bench, we stepped up also.”