MINNEAPOLIS (FOX 9) - It might have been difficult to tell from the end of practice Tuesday that the Minnesota Lynx are off to a 1-0 start.
The Lynx used a 24-10 third quarter surge to beat the Chicago Sky 89-71 at Target Center Saturday night. In her WNBA debut, top draft choice Napheesa Collier finished with a game-high 27 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field. That included shooting 3-of-4 from three-point range.
Collier led five Lynx players in double figures. Sylvia Fowles added 16 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes, while also battling foul trouble. She said Tuesday Collier has been making the adjustment from playing in the post in her college days at UConn to playing more on the perimeter at the professional level.
“She’s been showing that throughout practice. She’s like a sponge, she’s soaking everything in from the players as well as the coaches. I think she’s going to be amazing in the stretch,” Fowles said.
Napheesa Collier scored 27 points in her @minnesotalynx debut Saturday night.— Jeff Wald (@JeffWaldFox9) May 28, 2019
Center Sylvia Fowles said today “She’s like a sponge, soaking in everything from the players as well as the coaches. I think she’s going to be amazing in the stretch.” #LosLynx @FOX9 pic.twitter.com/WQk6lL39aW
But if there’s any thought that a season-opening win has the Lynx feeling good about themselves heading into Wednesday night’s game against the Seattle Storm, think again. Winning the opener is nice, but there’s bigger things to accomplish this season.
Coach Cheryl Reeve had a spirited conversation with her team at the end of practice Tuesday. It included a few choice expletives with the team in a circle at center court at Mayo Clinic Square. The Lynx’s scout team put players through a series of situations, and Reeve made sure to let her players know their execution did not meet her standards.
“It was just execution. We have people that are too quick to get into their own feelings. I think that’s probably the biggest problem,” Reeve said. “When we’re aware of our teammates, we’re a much better team so that’s probably the fundamental part of it.”
The end of practice conversation led to Fowles and other team veterans gathering the younger players on the court for a simple conversation: Welcome to life in the WNBA.
The veterans know what to expect from Reeve, who demands a lot from her players. If you don’t do your job the way Reeve expects, you’ll get a tongue lashing.
That’s why the Lynx have won four WNBA championships since 2013.
“It’s OK. Cheryl is going to fuss, she’s going to scream. You’ve got to be able to get through that and your body language can’t change throughout you getting bust out because everybody gets bust out,” Fowles said. “It’s just how you respond, just go out there and do what she asks. I told them even on good days she busts out so you’ve got to learn how to get over that because that’s her.”
Without three of their top players from last season, the Lynx will be more balanced this year. That was evident with five players scoring in double figures Saturday. In addition to Collier and Fowles combining for 43 of the 89 points, Danielle Robinson scored 13 points, Odyssey Sims added 11 points and five assists and Lexi Brown scored 10 points and added two steals.
Seimone Augustus didn’t play in the opener due to lingering knee pain, and didn’t practice Tuesday.
The Lynx host the Seattle Storm Wednesday night. They’re coming off their own season-opening win, 77-69 over the Phoenix Mercury. Much like the Lynx without Maya Moore, the Storm will look much different without Breanna Stewart. The former WNBA MVP tore her Achilles in the EuroLeauge title game.
For the Lynx veterans, their focus now is making sure the rookies and younger players aren’t satisfied with one win.
“They have to understand one game is not enough and so we’re just trying to get everybody back on the same page and make sure we’re focused for tomorrow and bringing the energy,” Fowles said.
The message was sent loud and clear Tuesday.