Late in a game the Lynx needed to win, Sylvia Fowles did what she rarely does.
She talked, a lot. She encouraged, loudly. She demanded, relentlessly. And she wouldn’t take a loss for an answer.
Saturday’s 92-83 victory over the New York Liberty — one that came in a back-and-forth game that never really seemed decided until the end — featured the debut of what Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve called “Angry Syl.’’
Usually a leader by example, Saturday night she led by exhortation. And frankly, Reeve loved it.
“I appreciated who Syl was tonight,’’ Reeve said. “It’s clear losing is not something high on Syl’s list. We were outplaying people but not finishing games. I like Angry Syl. I think it bodes well for us.’’
Fowles had 19 points and 10 rebounds. She scored 13 points and had eight rebounds in the second half. She and Napheesa Collier — who scored 15 of her 19 points in the second half — and Odyssey Sims (20 points) led the way for the Lynx, who improved to 5-5 with a two-game road trip looming.
But, start to finish, it was Fowles leading the way.
All week, really, as the Lynx took advantage of a six-day break to try to figure out how to finish games. As the only player from the Lynx championship teams currently suiting up, Fowles felt she had to step up.
So she did. And the Lynx (5-5) ended their four-game losing streak.
“I about had enough just watching us lose really, really close games,’’ she said. “And so sometimes, you know, when you’re in this position you have to step up. I hate being verbal. But this last week was the most I ever talked in my life. These ladies responded well. They rose up to the occasion.’’
Not that it was easy. Reeve was happy with the way her defense played — the team got 30 deflections — but the Liberty (3-7) still shot nearly 46%, made 10 of 25 three-pointers and scored 83 points. Kia Nurse — who scored 26 in a victory over the Lynx on June 12 — had 24. Tina Charles had 22.
Fowles and Collier each scored 10 points in the third quarter, during which the Lynx turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 13-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
The Lynx still led by 13 points three minutes into the fourth after Karima Christmas-Kelly (a season-high 12 points) completed a three-point play.
But then the Lynx went scoreless over the next 3½ minutes, during which the Liberty scored eight straight points to pull within five.
But this time the Lynx — getting Angry Syl during each timeout — didn’t break.
Collier hit an enormous three. Moments later Damiris Dantas converted a three-point play.
Down the stretch the Lynx — who were just 8-for-14 from the free throw line after three quarters — hit 10 of 12 free throws in the final two minutes to ice the win, Minnesota’s first since June 6.
“It is up to me,’’ Fowles said. “Once we leave the huddle, it’s ‘What’s your job? Where are you going? Who are you screening for? What side you on?’ ”
“When Angry Syl comes out, you know you’re messing up,’’ Collier said. “So you definitely want to do whatever you can to make it up to her.’’