Entering the season, it was widely expected Sylvia Fowles and Aerial Powers would produce for the Minnesota Lynx. But Moriah Jefferson? Nikolina Milić? Evina Westbrook?
Jefferson and Westbrook signed with the team Friday. Milić has been around since May 6.
Yet there the trio was making plays at both ends of the court early in the fourth quarter Saturday as the Lynx made a rally to get within two points. And they were on the floor in the final minute of a one-possession contest.
Ultimately, Minnesota fell 82-78 to the Chicago Sky and dropped to 0-4 for the season.
Milić scored seven of her team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, Fowles finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds and Jefferson scored 16 points and had five assists.
“We wanted to win the game. We’ll never ever, ever accept moral victories. But anybody who’s been watching us knows that was a big time progress game. Looked more like the Lynx. If we make some free throws (14-23), maybe we win the game … but we did a lot of good things,” said coach Cheryl Reeve.
Minnesota held the Sky to 40.6 percent from the field and had a 37-28 rebounding advantage.
“There were so many good things, fun things, promising things that we want to take forward with us,” Reeve said.
Aerial Powers looked more confident, rebounding from a trio of tough starts with more assertiveness at both ends. She finished with 11 points and nine rebounds.
Jefferson started at point guard and played just under 35 minutes, and, at least for one night, made a strong case for many more.
Jefferson also earned some faith from Reeve, who was disappointed with point guard performances in the team’s first three games. Picking up her fourth foul less than a minute into the second half, Jefferson played the entire third quarter and most of the fourth.
“It was worth the gamble,” Reeve said.
The second overall pick in the 2016 draft, Jefferson has battled knee troubles. Healthy in 2021, she started 28 games for Dallas, but was waived by the Wings Monday. She’d gotten in two days of work with Minnesota before her Saturday start.
“I thought it’d be a little more hectic and crazy but I think my teammates did a really good job of kind of accepting me, talking me through some things as well,” she said. “In this league, you know a lot of schemes are the same, so for me just about kind of getting those plays, getting those names down, and then if all else fails call Syl for a pick and roll and go off.”
Emma Meesseman led five Chicago (2-1) players in double figures with 17 points.
Azura Stevens added 14 and Courtney Vandersloot had 16 points — including the final 10 Sky points — and 11 assists.
A pair of free throws by Powers and a layup from Milić got the Lynx within 64-60 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Jefferson, Westbrook and Milić scored big baskets down the stretch.
Fowles received a pass from Westbrook and scored on a layup to get Minnesota within 77-76 with 53.5 seconds left, but Vandersloot countered with a 3-point shot.
Westbrook scored four points and had five assists in her WNBA debut.
Hannah Sjerven, a Rogers, Minn. native, also played in her first career game. She committed a couple fouls in 4 minutes.
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