Very little was pretty in the Lynx’s 87-85 victory Wednesday in Atlanta.
Well, other than the play of Sylvia Fowles. That was beautiful — dominant, really.
The Lynx’s all-world center went off for 26 points, 19 rebounds, five blocked shots and two steals on a night where she didn’t get much outside help. She hardly needed it.
That line has only been achieved one other time in WNBA regular-season history, by former Sacramento superstar Yolanda Griffith.
Fowles kept Minnesota in a fight it had no business being in for much of the night. The Lynx trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half thanks to their sloppy play. They appeared to be on the doorstep of a blowout defeat.
But Fowles scored 10 points over the next 3 minutes, 15 seconds to shrink the deficit to seven and stem the tide. Minnesota outscored Atlanta by 11 with Fowles on the floor.
This all after Fowles was disappointed — by her standards — in Minnesota’s most recent loss to Dallas.
“This game epitomizes Syl. Syl doesn’t like to disappoint people. She loves her teammates, loves her coaches,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “She’s somebody that really responds well when maybe the game didn’t go (her way), so you know you can count on her in the next game. She had been playing great. The one thing I told her before the game was we needed elite rebounding.”
Fowles gave the Lynx elite scoring, too, after Minnesota (6-7) committed itself to consistently finding its best player down on the block.
“One thing Cheryl and I established over the last couple days is making sure that I get enough touches,” Fowles said. “I think that’s why you’ve seen the performance that I had tonight.”
Fowles also did everything else along with the scoring. She did the little things on the defensive end. She kept the team bonded together, even amid the big deficit. She was what she always is — the Lynx’s rock.
“Syl embodies everything you’d want her to be,” Reeve said. “So I mean, her legacy is, who’s better? Who’s the better center in the history of our league? That’s her legacy. She’s the best center in the history of our league.”
Damiris Dantas looked like her 2020 self — through Reeve cautioned against expecting anyone to repeat a year like the Brazilian big had last season — with 23 points on the strength of six triples.
Layshia Clarendon added eight points and nine assists, and while Kayla McBride’s stat line won’t wow, she scored seven of her nine points over the final six minutes, including a tough pull-up jumper to give Minnesota that 87-85 advantage just before the shot clock expired with 1:10 to play.
“She had such a way about her, leadership-wise, her communication, her belief that we were going to win the game,” Reeve said. “That’s what you hope for.”
The 18-point comeback ties for the Lynx’s fourth-largest in franchise history and is the team’s largest comeback since also coming back from 18 down against Seattle in 2015. All night, Reeve felt like her team believed.
“We just knew that we had to hang in there. Can’t hang our heads, can’t feel sorry for ourselves. Just have to go into the next play and see if you can string together a couple stops,” Reeve said. “This is a team that’s kind of been there. … This was a team that we got to a certain point and they really felt like we were going to win this game.”