Sylvia Fowles admitted after the Lynx's 88-77 win over the Los Angeles Sparks on Thursday that she was pressing herself into mistakes in the face of double and triple teams. She was 2-for-6 shooting in the first half and had three turnovers.
Maybe nerves got the best of her. The reigning Western Conference Player of the Month wanted to show her success this season wasn't a fluke. And by the end of the game, she proved that.
After averaging 13 points in last season's WNBA Finals against the Sparks, who deployed the same defense against Fowles then, the center dominated Los Angeles. She finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
"I don't know who was more excited, me or Syl, for this game to show it's for real how far she's come," coach Cheryl Reeve said afterward. "We didn't have that last year. We didn't have the ability to run so many plays and have her double- and triple-teamed."
Even when she struggled in the first half, she drew so much attention that it created opportunities for others, including backup Renee Montgomery, whose four three-pointers helped her produce a season-high 20 points. Reeve said Seimone Augustus' 10 first-half points, most of which came from the forward running off screens, were the result of Fowles sucking defenders away from other Lynx.
"You're not thinking about defending ball screens," Reeve said. "You're kind of going, 'Where the heck is Fowles?'"
Fowles was a top-level WNBA center before this season. But she's currently averaging a career-high for points (20.7) while shooting the best percentage of her career, 66 percent. That makes defending her -- and, as a result, the rest of the Lynx -- a greater quandary than ever.
"The way she's playing now, she's just elevated her game to where it's a really hard decision for the defense," Maya Moore said. "If you send two at her, she can split it, or she can find a teammate. And if you don't come, she's going to get and-one's scoring it most of the time."