Sans two starters at the beginning and losing a third, Napheesa Collier and Kayla McBride sparked the shorthanded Minnesota Lynx on Tuesday.
Collier scored 21 points and tied a career high with 14 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season, and McBride scored 25 points, including four late icing free-throws, and grabbed nine rebounds as the Lynx beat New York 74-66 at Target Center.
But it was the kind of night where everybody had to do more.
That they did with a smorgasbord of lineups.
“You’re putting people in positions they haven’t been in to run actions, and we’re trying to move people around,” said coach Cheryl Reeve.
In her third game back after missing 13 with a torn ligament in her right thumb, Aerial Powers had 10 points and five rebounds. Rachel Banham had eight points and five assists, and Jessica Shepard grabbed eight rebounds in 18 minutes. Reeve did not insert Banham or Shepard in the past two games.
“For me it’s just controlling what I can and being ready whenever my number is called,” said Shepard, who spent part of the first half pedaling a stationary bicycle near the bench.
Minnesota (16-9) dressed just nine players because a pair of starters missed the contest.
Center Sylvia Fowles, who had a 29-point, 20-rebound, four-steal, three-block effort in the team’s previous win over Seattle, fell on her left shoulder during practice in the past week. “Gotta wait and see. It’s pretty sore,” Reeve said.
Guard Layshia Clarendon was out with a lower leg stress reaction and was sporting a walking boot on her right leg.
Early in the second half, starting forward Damiris Dantas left with a foot injury.
“It’s safe to say that it’s not something small, so she’s probably another starter that we’re going to be without at least in the short term,” Reeve said.
Natalie Achonwa started at center for the first time this season, and Crystal Dangerfield started in the backcourt for the first time since the team’s fifth game. However, both picked up their third foul by early in the second quarter.
“It’s just a next man up mentality,” McBride said. “We know how important Lay and Syl are to us and what we do, but it’s a 12-man roster. … BCs three was huge, Jess’s presence, Rachel’s presence, AP kind of had that first four minutes of the fourth quarter where she got an And-1, she got fouled and made two free throws. Those momentum plays kind of settled us down in the fourth quarter. Credit our bench, we outscored them 25-6. We don’t win the game without them. It’s not always their job, but they stepped up tonight.”
Bridget Carleton drained a 3-pointer with 1:11 remaining for a 68-63 Lynx lead, but Michaela Onyenwere countered with three free throws with 23.3 seconds left to get the Liberty within two.
A quartet of McBride free throws secured Minnesota’s third straight win and 11th in 13 games.
Neither team shot the ball well. Minnesota’s 34.8% was a season low, but New York shot just 32.4%, the lowest by a Lynx opponent this season. The teams were a combined 10 for 50 from outside the arc with five makes apiece.
“Our offense was pretty darn ugly … but we’ve always preached when your offense isn’t getting it done, you got to win anyway. And you win with your defense,” Reeve said.
That was without Fowles, whose 10 rebounds per game average is second in the WNBA.
“Knowing that we have people out, you have to give a little bit even more than you give on a normal night,” Collier said. “… With someone out, especially someone who’s such a big rebounder you have to be cognizant of that and be more aggressive with rebounding because it’s not like she’s going to clean it up, which, I think is our mindset a lot of the time.”
Playing through plantar fasciitis and battling a cold, Collier had six points in a 13-6 run to end the third quarter for a 57-49 lead. Powers, who took her hand wrap off in the second half, scored five points in the stretch.
Banham scored eight straight points in the second quarter for a 35-30 lead.
Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu each had 17 points for New York (11-17), losers of five straight and eight of nine.