Looking to run their winning streak to three games, the Minnesota Lynx look to keep the winless New York Liberty reeling Wednesday when they meet in the bubble in Bradenton, Fla.
The Lynx are seeking their second consecutive 4-1 start and completed a sweep of the Connecticut Sun on Saturday with a 78-69 victory. Sylvia Fowles had 21 points and 13 rebounds, while rookie Crystal Dangerfield contributed 11 of her season-high 17 points in the third quarter to help Minnesota overturn an eight-point halftime deficit.
"She understands now," Fowles told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about Dangerfield. "She understands now that when we're lacking a little bit, we need that spark. Nobody had to tell her this time. She went out and took matters into her own hands."
The 5-foot-5 Dangerfield, a second-round pick, nearly matched her output from his first three games and is averaging 9.0 points and 2.0 assists. Fowles has recorded double-doubles in three of Minnesota's four contests and is averaging team highs of 15.8 points and 12.3 rebounds.
While teams are scoring at a higher rate than last year, the Lynx are standing out with their defense. They rank second in defensive efficiency, allowing 95.4 points per 100 possessions, and scoring defense at 77.3 points per contest.
That second figure may prove challenging for New York to reach. The Liberty are last in the league in scoring at 74 points per game and still looking to adjust offensively without No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu, who is out indefinitely with a third-degree ankle sprain suffered against Atlanta on Friday.
Kia Nurse, who herself sat out Friday's defeat with a sprained ankle, returned Sunday and scored 17 points in a 96-67 loss to Phoenix on Sunday. Layshia Clarendon added 12, but the Liberty shot 24.7 percent overall and 14.3 percent (5 for 35) from 3-point range in their second straight 0-4 start.
The 30 missed 3's set a WNBA record previously held by Phoenix with 28 in 2008, and the Liberty are also last in that category - Cheryl Reeve's rookie-laden squad is shooting just 23.1 percent from 3-point range.
"We just have to continue to fight," Nurse said after enduring a 3-for-17 shooting performance. "Every single night is going to be a grind, every game is going to be a grind and there will be opportunities for us to grind out wins here. We just have to battle hard and punch first."
The game will be a reunion of Lynx and Liberty coaches current and past. Former Lynx assistant Walt Hopkins is in his first year on the New York sideline, while predecessor Katie Smith returned to Minnesota this offseason as an assistant under Cheryl Reeve after two seasons coaching the Liberty.
Minnesota has won five of the last six games between the teams over the last two years.