This time the Lynx kept their foot on the pedal. This time they kept rebounding, kept attacking, kept defending.
It was last Sunday that the Lynx met the Atlanta Dream. Feels like ages ago, considering the upheaval of the week. The first time the Lynx saw an 11-point halftime lead dissolve amid disarray. Friday at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the Lynx took the lead in the second quarter and never lost it in an 88-79 victory that pushed Minnesota to 10-4.
The big reason: Odyssey Sims. She gave birth to a son in April, didn’t enter the WNBA bubble until August, hadn’t played more than 14-plus minutes in any of her first four games. Friday she came off the bench to score 17 points with nine assists and seven rebounds. She and Crystal Dangerfield (24 points) were a one-two punch Atlanta (3-12) couldn’t stop.
“The last Atlanta game didn’t feel very good with what I did with rotations,’’ Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “I left Odyssey out of it. We cleared that up.’’
To this point Sims had entered the game to replace Dangerfield at the point. On Friday Reeve put the two on the floor together for much of the night. The result was two guards who can penetrate and pass, get to the rim or kick it out. They combined for 40 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists. Napheesa Collier had her fifth double-double of the season with 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Atlanta was led by Betnijah Laney (22 points), Courtney Williams (17) and Elizabeth Williams (12 points, 10 rebounds).
“Cheryl has been working me in,’’ Sims said of the line Reeve has been walking between wanting to play Sims more and protecting her. “She’s been mindful. But I’ve been waiting for my moment.’’
Dangerfield had 14 of her points in a 20-4 second-quarter run that put the Lynx in the lead for good.
The Lynx led by eight at the half, by 11 after three quarters and by 15 when Sims scored with 8:42 left.
The Dream responded with a 9-0 run to pull within 73-67 on Blake Dietrick’s three with 7:04 left.
But they got no closer. The Lynx had five players score over the final 7 minutes, combining to make nine of 10 free throws in that stretch. A beautiful pick-and-roll with Sims and Damiris Dantas led to Dantis’ layup and a 10-point lead with 2:09 left.
“It’s the Odyssey that we know,’’ Reeve said. “Not only scoring, but her assists. Rebounds. When I think about the last Atlanta game, when we were struggling to score, I should have had Odyssey out there. I didn’t make the same mistake twice.’’
The Star Tribune will not be traveling to Florida for NBA and WNBA coverage. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.