UNCASVILLE – Staring at elimination, Napheesa Collier said Sunday morning her team would have to play free and easy, nothing to lose, leave it on the floor.
Then Collier, the former UConn champ, set the example, with 26 points and 13 rebounds as the Minnesota Lynx beat the Connecticut Sun, 82-75, in Game 3 of their best-of-three WNBA first-round series Sunday.
In winning the middle game, the Lynx not only staved off the end of their season, they gained home-court advantage for the winner-take-all third game, Wednesday in Minnesota.
Collier, 26, who had over 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds during her college career, missed nearly all of last season as she gave birth to her first child. She resumed her career poised to take a leadership role as the Lynx, four-time champions of the league, were rebuilding. She averaged 21.5 points and 8.5 rebounds as Minnesota, after losing its first six games, began to put things together and gained the No. 6 seed.
She wasn’t happy with her play in Game 1, as the Sun won by 30. But Collier, and her team, played with a clean slate Sunday.
Collier was everywhere in the first half, getting 16 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals as the Lynx, leading by as much as eight, took a 44-39 edge into the locker room. Minnesota was getting open looks and shooting 50 percent.
The lead changed hands 10 times in the half, with Bonner’s perimeter shooting, four threes and 18 points, keeping the Sun close.
In the third quarter, Minnesota dominated and opened up a 16-point lead before the Sun got back on its game and staged a 14-0 run, cutting it to a possession-by-possession game down the stretch, but the Lynx held on to the lead, coming up with the big buckets over the final minutes.