There were, apparently, a number of rather forceful messages Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve imparted to her team at halftime of Tuesday’s game with Atlanta at Target Center.
• Play defense. For five games now Reeve has seen her team’s offense improve, only to be negated at the other end. After a first half in which her team gave Atlanta nearly any shot it wanted, she suggested this change.
• And Reeve told Stephanie Talbot to shoot.
Such a receptive team.
After struggling to a four-point halftime lead, the Lynx defense shut Atlanta down and Talbot led an offense that put the game away in the second half for a 85-68 victory in front of an announced crowd of 8,203.
For Talbot, it was a personal triumph. Starting her second game at small forward in place of the injured Damiris Dantas, Talbot scored a career-high 24 points, making five of nine three-pointers, getting to the line six times making five, with five rebounds and three assists.
“A player goes from barely playing and being upset with me,” Reeve joked. “Now she’s upset with me that she’s so tired and she’s not coming out of the game. So that’s just the life of a coach.”
But seriously: After passing up way too many shots in the first half, Talbot scored 16 of her 24 points in the second, including a scintillating fourth-quarter stretch in which she hit two three-pointers and made three free throws in just over a minute as the Lynx’s lead grew to 21 points.
“We told her, every single time you’re open, shoot,” Reeve said of Talbot. “I don’t care what the time is on the shot clock, you shoot it. I think she’s getting used to that.”
And the minutes.
“I’m not fit enough for 30 minutes yet,” said Talbot, who played nearly 33 Tuesday. “But it’s nice to have coaches and teammates encourage you to let it fly. Having that in the back of your mind, it makes you relax, more confident.”
She wasn’t alone. Odyssey Sims had 16 points — 10 in the Lynx’s 28-16 third quarter — and eight assists. She and Danielle Robinson had 15 of the team’s season-high 24 assists. Alaina Coates scored 10 points with nine rebounds off the bench.
Atlanta was led by Elizabeth Williams’ 14 points, only one of two Dream starters in double figures.
Lynx center Sylvia Fowles started hot with 10 first-quarter points before falling into foul trouble. She finished with 16 points, four fouls and a technical for voicing her opinion on the officiating.
“I feel like I go out there and get the silliest calls just from breathing on people, and I can get pounded and hit and I don’t get calls,” she said.
“So yeah, I got a little frustrated tonight.”
Because the Lynx brought it all together in the second half, holding the Dream to 38.9% shooting while scoring 47 points.
All 13 of the Lynx’s fast-break points came in the second half, and their 19-18 scoring edge in the fourth quarter marked the first time this season the Lynx have outscored an opponent in the final 10 minutes.
Talbot was a big part of that.
“We need her to shoot,” Fowles said. “I think she kind of soaked that in. ’Cause that was our main focus at halftime: just go out and shoot.
“She went out there and lit it up for us.’’