This time it really didn't matter that the Minnesota Lynx started the game slowly. It didn't matter that, for the better part of 10 minutes, the team just couldn't seem to make a shot.
They got better.
A lot better.
On the road at Phoenix on Tuesday, the Lynx (4-13) snapped a five-game losing streak with an 84-71 victory over the Mercury.
That, in itself, is impressive. But consider the Lynx were down 11 after the first quarter, when it looked like they were headed for another poor shooting night.
With Natalie Achonwa providing a boost off the bench — her hamstring finally sound, she was playing in her first game since May 8 — the Lynx took the game by the throat after the first quarter, outscoring the Mercury 73-49 the rest of the way.
"I had fun out there tonight with my teammates,'' said Kayla McBride, who scored 18 points. "That's how it always should be. Collectively, we did a good job. We took steps today, but just steps. We still need to get more wins. I want to win.''
Frankly, the Lynx had been building towards this, with back-to-back one-possession losses to Seattle and first-place Las Vegas in their last two games.
Tuesday, they broke through. They held Phoenix under 40% shooting, improving to 135-5 since 2011 when doing that. They out-rebounded the Mercury, with Jessica Shepard, off the bench, leading the way with 13 boards to go with six points and five assists.
Point guard Moriah Jefferson (12 points, nine assists) had another strong game. But the Lynx also got timely contributions from Aerial Powers (nine points), Achonwa (12 points, six rebounds), and Rachel Banham and Bridget Carleton, who both hit a pair of second-half threes.
The Lynx, moving the ball and moving without it, had 24 assists on 28 made shots, with Shepard and Achonwa leading the way in the high post.
For Achonwa — who made a point of stating her desire that Mercury center Brittney Griner, detained in Russia, return back home — it was a long time coming. She hurt her hamstring after two games. She was close to return some time ago, but had a setback. It was gratifying to be back on the court.
"It wasn't easy,'' she said of her work to come back. "I worked hard to come in ready for training camp. And, two games in, to get hurt? It was heartbreaking.''
The Lynx turned the tide in the second quarter, trimming an 11-point deficit to four at the half. But they really took control of the game in the third. Down three with 4:18 left in the quarter, the Lynx outscored Phoenix 29-8 from then until McBride's layup gave Minnesota a 79-61 lead with 4:39 left in the game.
"We're really pleased with the balance,'' Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "Two of our starters, for the most part, struggled. But our bench [Minnesota's reserves scored 32 points] was what helped get us separation.''
Skylar Diggins-Smith scored a game-high 25 for Phoenix. Diana Taurasi had 15.
Of course, nothing is perfect, and Reeve made sure to point out areas in which the Lynx will have to improve before a rematch with the Mercury on Thursday at Target Center. They'll have to finish quarters better, do a better job of not allowing threes; Phoenix attempted 30 of them, many open looks, but hit just 10, with Taurasi making just three of 10.
But win is a win. And the Lynx needed one.
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.