Things were getting out of hand Wednesday night.
Up 18 points in the third quarter, the Lynx had seen the Chicago Sky mount a ferocious rally that had erased that lead. A 33-13 push had put Chicago up two with just under six minutes left in the game.
Out of a timeout the Lynx moved the ball. It got to Napheesa Collier, who saw Damiris Dantas wide open behind the three-point line.
Collier passed, and Dantas did not hesitate.
“My teammates said, ‘DD, shot! You don’t have defense,’ ” Dantas said after the game. The Brazilian-born Dantas is still working to master the English language. But the emotion came through.”
She shot. The three-pointer went through, giving the Lynx back the lead. After Chicago scored again, Dantas and Shenise Johnson ran a nice pick-and-roll that resulted in another Dantas bucket. Minnesota did not trail again.
She finished the night with 28 points. But she also rebounded (seven) and played some strong pick-and-roll defense on a late Sky possession that resulted in a Courtney Vandersloot turnover. It was a career night.
To Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, it was another step. Before this season started, Reeve had a long talk with Damiris. The subject? Filling a void.
“I told her we have, how did I put it, we have an opening on our big three,” Reeve said.
The season didn’t start with a bang for Dantas, who operates as a “stretch four” capable of playing inside and outside. Her play was steady but not spectacular. But in recent games she has put together a résumé worthy of that job Reeve offered her weeks ago.
With center Sylvia Fowles out because of a calf injury, the 6-3 Dantas has reached another level. In her past two games — impressive victories over Los Angeles and Chicago — Dantas has hit 17 of 25 shots, eight of 10 three-pointers (she was a perfect 5-for-5 Wednesday), had 16 rebounds, four assists, four steals and scored 45 points.
Her 28 points Wednesday were the most ever by a foreign-born Lynx player. She also became the ninth player in WNBA history to have a game with at least 25 points, seven rebounds, three steals and five made threes.
“What she is showing us, in the last two games, is what we thought we could get from her in her next part of evolution as a player,” Reeve said.
Dantas not only has continued to take open threes, but she has worked hard to fill the void of not having Fowles in the paint. She has shown a willingness to, as Reeve said, take a beating in the paint. She is rebounding better. Her averages of 11.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and her 40.6% shooting on three-pointers are all career highs.
“It’s a step we envisioned for her,” Reeve said of Dantas, 27. “I think she’s capable. This is her prime, she realizes everything about this league, what we want her to do, that we believe in her. She has everything around her. She loves this team, what it’s about. This is the best possible space she could be in. When she plays well we don’t lose.”
It’s a change in approach. Reeve said Dantas sometimes previously felt like a complementary player, and acted like it. Without Fowles, that has changed.
“I’ve had a lot of conversations with coach, and [she] said I need [to score more],” Dantas said. “So, take your time, but let’s go, because we don’t have Syl now. With Syl not here, I need you. So I’m trying to score more, rebound.”