Crystal Dangerfield didn’t have to be told this time.
Dangerfield is the Lynx’s rookie point guard. Last Sunday, in the team’s opener against Connecticut, after a lackluster first half, she needed a push from captain Sylvia Fowles to take a step up in the second.
“She understands now,” Fowles said after Minnesota’s come-from-behind 78-69 victory over Connecticut on Saturday at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. “She understands now that when we’re lacking a little bit, we need that spark. Nobody had to tell her this time. She went out and took matters into her own hands.”
Dangerfield scored 11 of her 17 points in the third quarter, during which the Lynx turned a seven-point deficit into a one-point lead. Then the Lynx opened the fourth quarter on a 15-5 run.
The Lynx improved to 3-1, tied with Chicago and Washington for the best record in the league. That’s nine times in 10 years they have started 3-1 or better.
Dangerfield hit four of five third-quarter shots, all three of her three-pointers, including one with 5:29 left in the third that tied the score at 51. On the next possession she scored on the break to give the Lynx its first lead.
Fowles and Damiris Dantas led the way down the stretch. Fowles was hampered by foul trouble for the second straight game, picking up her fourth in the first minute of the third quarter. But coach Cheryl Reeve decided to keep Fowles in. And, after being limited to six points and nine minutes in the first half, Fowles finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds, getting six of those points and seven rebounds in the final 10 minutes.
Dantas missed her first nine shots. But she hit a three with 3:09 left that put the Lynx up nine. Fowles’ cutting layup moments later made it an 11-point game with 2:27 left.
Napheesa Collier hit all seven of her shots and finished with 17 points, nine rebounds — five on the offensive end — and seven turnovers. She now leads the league in both offensive rebounds (4.0) and turnovers (4.8) per game.
But she was part of a Lynx defense that held the Sun (0-4) to 34.9% shooting. They were 3-for-17 in the fourth quarter; the Lynx outscored Connecticut 43-27 in the final 20 minutes. Minnesota had a 40-27 edge in rebounding.
DeWanna Bonner finished with 28 points but had just three in the fourth quarter. Alyssa Thomas finished without a field goal for the first time since 2018.
The Lynx lost starting guard Shenise Johnson to a hamstring injury early and were already without Lexie Brown (concussion protocol). And a spotty first half could have gotten out of hand had Reeve not gotten good minutes from Bridget Carleton and newly acquired Erica McCall. Carleton had eight points on 3-for-3 shooting and McCall had four boards.
“Bridget will fight if you give her a chance,” Reeve said.
That’s true of the team, which has overcome injuries and difficult stretches to get off to a 3-1 start with a three-day break looming.
The Star Tribune will not be traveling to Florida this month for MLS, NBA and WNBA coverage. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.