Napheesa Collier and Damiris Dantas watched the end of Sunday’s loss to Phoenix from the bench.
It was a tough day, for both of them. Frustrating.
Before Monday’s late game with Los Angeles at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., Collier and Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve talked. Sunday was one of those days, Reeve said. Turn the page. Collier, even playing on the back end of a back-to-back, with a 10 p.m. local time start, she told Reeve she already felt better than the day before. Ready.
She was. But then, so was the whole team.
After a fairly slow start that had the them down by 11 with 7:58 left in the second quarter, the Lynx exploded. Over the final 27:58 of the game they outscored the Sparks 74-45, en route to an impressive 96-78 victory over a Sparks team that had won nine games in a row.
“Our energy was just night and day,” Collier said.“We really need to bottle what we did today, and how we felt, and try to replicate it in the rest of our games.”
It also ended a five-game losing streak to the Sparks (12-4), who had won nine of the past 10 meetings between the teams.
Collier had 25 points, nine rebounds and five assists, one rebound short of her fourth 20-10 game this season. Dantas hit three of five three-pointers, scored 17 points with nine boards and four assists. Both Collier and Dantas were on the bench, again, after this one ended. But for a very different reason.
But this was a team win in the best sense. Crystal Dangerfield dropped another 21 points.
And then there was Rachel Banham. She was pretty much perfect. She scored 18 points, making all six of her shots. She hit four three-pointers, including a dagger from the corner at the end of the first half. The Lynx shot 53.6%, hit 14 of 27 threes and had 30 assists on 37 made baskets.
Team? Bridget Carleton had zero points, but 10 assists.
“It was really fun,” said Banham, who came two points shy of matching her career high. “We just all played really well. And it’s always great beating L.A.’’
At first it seemed a replay of Sunday’s loss to Phoenix. The Lynx (11-5) were energetic but sloppy to open the game. Down seven after a quarter, they were down 11 with 7:58 left in the half when the switch flipped.
The rest of the quarter was all Lynx. Over the next seven-plus minutes, they outscored Los Angeles 24-3. Overall, it was 27-7 over the final 7:58 of the half.
And it was a party: Collier and Dantas each scored eight in the run. Shenise Johnson hit a three-pointer, Banham had a three and a driving reverse layup with 40.6 seconds left in the half that put the Lynx up 46-36. Collier, playing against a Sparks team without Nneka Ogwumike, took full advantage.
The Sparks hit two quick buckets, looking to take momentum into the half. But then Dangerfield fed Banham in the corner, and she hit a three with 0.4 seconds left to put the Lynx up nine at the half. Collier scored 10 points in the second quarter, Banham eight.
“Rachel gave us momentum we built off,’’ Reeve said. “I can’t say enough about her play.’’
About everyone’s. Six players had multiple rebounds. Five players had three or more assists.
“I think we were disappointed,” Collier said about Sunday’s game. “Playing hard is one of the things we pride ourselves on, and we didn’t do that [Sunday]. We wanted to prove to ourselves and our coach that we’re not that team.”
Reeve replaced Lexie Brown with Odyssey Sims in the starting lineup Monday.
The Star Tribune will not be traveling to Florida for NBA and WNBA coverage. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.