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Napheesa Collier entered the room with daughter Mila, who was wearing a tiny Lynx jersey with her mom's name on it.

Things have changed for Collier, who gave birth to Mila just 10 ½ weeks ago. She made her 2022 debut, as a starter, in Minnesota's 81-71 victory over Atlanta on Sunday night at Target Center.

"Before, the most important thing was my family and basketball," Collier said, looking at Mila in her lap. "Now she's definitely No. 1. I'm doing it for her now."

Driven all summer to return in time to play with Sylvia Fowles in Fowles' last season, her return was moved up three days because of a knee injury that kept Aerial Powers out of Sunday's game. Collier scored six points with two rebounds, an assist, a steal and a block in almost 21 minutes, probably double what she was supposed to play.

If those numbers don't amaze, her return was a big part of the Lynx staying in the playoff hunt.

"It was a bit of an out-of-body experience," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "It was nice to have her. To spend 31 games without her, and to finally have her, it was like a security blanket."

It was big for Kayla McBride, who described the jolt of excitement she got sitting next to Collier on the bench before the starting lineups were announced.

"It just felt right," McBride said.

The Lynx (13-20) moved within a game of the WNBA's final playoff spot. They are in 10th place, a half-game behind New York and a game behind Atlanta and Phoenix (both 14-19), who are tied for seventh and eighth.

They did it with defense, holding Atlanta under 40% shooting. They did it with outside shooting against a Dream team that was determined to bottle up Fowles in the paint. McBride hit three of seven three-pointers and scored 20 points. Moriah Jefferson made four of five threes and scored 18. Both of them had six assists on a night when, the ball moving, Minnesota had 26 assists on 31 made shots.

Rachel Banham scored 12 off the bench. Minnesota tied a season high for made threes, going 12-for-26. Fowles had eight points and eight boards. Her three blocks gave her 718, moving her into third in league history.

McBride had her old confidence. Jefferson played with aggression. Collier?

She was back. The plan had been to play her Wednesday in Phoenix. But that was before the team got bad news on Powers' knee. Reeve called up Collier. Do you want to play? Or wait? Two minutes later Reeve got the call back:

I'll play.

Collier's only hesitation, it turns out, were nerves.

Perhaps her best stretch came early in the fourth quarter, which began with Rhyne Howard hitting a 21-footer, drawing the Dream within a point.

Over the next 2:07, the Lynx scored 10 straight. Jefferson hit a 13-footer, then Banham drove for a score. On the next possession Collier got the ball on the perimeter, faked her defender up, drove for a score, was fouled and made the free throw. She rebounded the Dream's next miss, and McBride hit a three with 7:19 left that put the Lynx up 11.

Clearly, there was rust. Collier commented at how fast the game seemed, how tired she was at the end.

"I'm not trying to come in and do too much," Collier said. "I want to play my role, let the game come to me, help this team make a playoff push."

But the ball moved on offense, the Lynx were better on defense. "10,000 percent," McBride said. "It's her basketball IQ. In the right place at the right time. Long, athletic, and she competes."