Before Napheesa Collier and Sylvia Fowles played supporting roles as Team USA won another gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, they helped the Minnesota Lynx get on a major roll.
After the month-long WNBA break for the Olympics, Collier and Fowles will attempt to help Minnesota get an eighth consecutive victory Sunday night when it plays host to the New York Liberty.
The Lynx will strive for continued strong defensive performances after heading into the break second in points allowed (75.0) and opponents’ field goal percentage (39.6 percent) over their seven-game winning streak.
“I don’t think it’s about carrying over momentum as it is just continuing to get better,” Minnesota assistant coach Rebekkah Brunson said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “We had some really good days in practice (during the break), starting with individual workouts to five-on-five.
“We wanted to get better defensively. We also wanted to make sure our flow offensively was a little better than it was.”
Collier and Fowles did not see major minutes on a loaded Team USA that was led by A’ja Wilson, Brittney Griner and had Diana Taurasi along with Sue Bird. Fowles averaged 5.0 points and 4.2 rebounds while Collier averaged 1.3 points.
The numbers in Tokyo pale in comparison to what the duo did before the break. Collier averaged 17.3 points while Fowles averaged 15.9 and leads the league in field-goal percentage at 60.8 percent.
Those performances helped Minnesota win seven straight and 12 of 15 following an 0-4 start. The Lynx won a mix of close games and blowouts but headed into the break by shooting 55.9 percent in an 86-61 rout of the host Los Angeles Sparks on July 11.
Collier matched a career high with 27 points on 11 of 17 shooting and produced a pair of 20-point outings during the winning streak. Fowles added 10 points and continued to be a steadying presence with her 16th game in double figures.
The Liberty entered the break with double-digit losses to the Indiana Fever and Connecticut Sun. After shooting 39.4 percent and missing 17 of 23 tries from 3-point range in an 82-69 loss to Indiana on July 9, they shot 30.4 percent and missed 20 of 29 3-point attempts in a 71-54 home loss to Connecticut two days later.
Betnijah Laney led the Liberty with 19 points against the Sun but was held to three points in the last game before the break. Sabrina Ionescu also had a rough final two games before the break as she went scoreless in 21 minutes of the final game after scoring four points at Indiana.
Those final two games sent New York to a 10-11 record at the break and continued its inconsistencies. Before losing those games, the Liberty won three of four and that followed a 2-6 skid from June 3-24.
“We’re not doing a good job of consistently doing the things that we do when we win games,” New York coach Walt Hopkins said. “When we do them, we win. When we don’t, we get whooped.”
–Field Level Media