A few minutes after the Lynx advanced to the WNBA semifinals on Thursday night, Odyssey Sims said: “I didn’t want to go home.’’
Not long ago, she didn’t know if she’d arrive.
Sims gave birth to her son in April and planned not to play this season. She changed her mind, and changed the Lynx’s prospects.
Thursday night, her clutch shooting and clutching defense helped the Lynx to an 80-79 comeback victory over Phoenix, and as a player not long with the Lynx, she fit right in with her teammates.
From 2011-18, the Lynx roster was filled with Hall of Famers who had won titles together. On Thursday, coach Cheryl Reeve used only seven players. Her most accomplished, Sylvia Fowles, struggled in her return from a calf injury. The six players who played the largest roles in the comeback were not even with the team just two years ago.
Reeve traded for Sims before the start of last season, and Sims became an All-Star for the first time.
Reeve traded for Rachel Banham before this season, and on Thursday the former Gopher made five of seven shots for 11 points.
Damiris Dantas signed as a free agent, and Reeve, in a move that was barely noticed when it happened, picked up Bridget Carleton late last season.
Napheesa Collier was a first-round pick last year, and former UConn teammate Crystal Dangerfield was a second-round pick this year.
Any team could have had Sims, Banham, Dantas, Carleton or Dangerfield, and five teams passed on Collier.
Fowles is an all-time great, but she managed just six points on eight shots. Collier and Dangerfield are the last two rookies of the year, even though Collier went with the sixth pick and Dangerfield became the first second-round pick ever to win the award.
This roster is much more blue collar than blue chip, which is why the Lynx’s accomplishments this season are so surprising.
“We just stayed calm, cool and collected,’’ Collier said. “Because that’s what we do now.’’
This team knows how to adapt. The Lynx fell behind by 12 points early on Thursday. Dangerfield looked scattered, Fowles had trouble finishing near the rim, and Collier was barely touching the ball.
In the second half, Dangerfield and Sims dominated play, helping the Lynx overcome a deficit as large as 12 points in the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
Sims saying “I didn’t want to go home’’ is more than the typical cliché because she decided to show up — and let me place emphasis on this for male former athletes who think a sprained ankle is a big deal — after giving birth to another human.
She, like her teammates, is quarantined in a bubble in Florida during the summer. Their lives are mundane and restricted, they play for less money and fewer perks than perhaps any other American major league athletes, and they don’t want to go home?
It showed. They survived two fourth-quarter four-point plays from the great Diana Taurasi and, as they have all season, figured out how to play together on the fly.
Fittingly, the victory arrived after Reeve was named league Coach of the Year for the third time and Dangerfield received her Rookie of the Year award.
Reeve hasn’t even had regular practices with which to form this team.
Dangerfield overcame early jitters to return to form, snaking deft lefthanded layups under outstretched arms, but it was Sims’ toughness that won the day.
She took on the responsibility of guarding Taurasi. Always physically tough and crafty with the ball in her hands, she overcame a slow start of her own to score 14 points with four assists.
To repeat: Sims did this five months after having a baby.
And NHL players think they’re tough.