Lynx down Mercury 100-88 in Sylvia Fowles’ return

It could be said the Minnesota Lynx got two wins Thursday.

Not only did they score a season high in points to beat Phoenix for the second time in three days, but their future Hall of Famer returned.

Either could be why “Celebration” blared inside Target Center after the final horn.

All five starters scored in double figures, led by Moriah Jefferson’s 21 points, in a 100-88 Lynx victory. Damiris Dantas and Kayla McBride each added 15 points.

In her return, center Sylvia Fowles scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in just over 22 minutes of action.

“I felt great,” she said. “I knew that I would go out there and play. I wasn’t sure how well I was gonna play, but I had some really good practices and really good treatments.”

Quipped coach Cheryl Reeve: “Now I know I don’t have to play Syl more than 22 minutes for her to get a double-double.”

Fowles, who shoots a league-best 63.6 percent and averages 16.3 points and 10.2 rebounds, missed the past five games due to a cartilage injury in her right knee.

She acknowledges she’ll not be at 100 percent for the rest of her 15th and final season, but the swelling and pain are now manageable. In easing her back, Fowles is on a minutes restriction — for now.

“We’ll see how long that lasts,” said a smiling Fowles, who on Wednesday was named a starter and co-captain for the July 10 All-Star Game.

Minnesota (5-13) went 1-4 without No. 34 in uniform.

“Syl is such a part of our identity,” Reeve said. “Syl’s my interpreter. She’s the one that’s saying, ‘Don’t listen to how she’s saying it, listen to what she’s saying.’ We know what it takes to be successful. She gives them great confidence.”

With Fowles back in the fold and plenty of help from her friends, Minnesota had decided advantages in rebounds (42-23), points in the paint (46-30) and second-chance points (18-4).

Jessica Shepard nearly had a double-double off the bench with nine points and nine rebounds.

“Great team effort. We’re sharing the ball; we’re hunting the ball down. Not just me or not just Jess. The guards (are) really doing a really good job of getting in there getting those second-chance shots for us too or just getting defensive boards,” Fowles said. “We just trying to do it collectively all over the floor and not just be a couple of people.”

The Lynx shot 56.8 percent and set a season high with 60 first-half points, including a 20-2 run, to lead by a dozen points at the break.

Phoenix (6-12) twice got within eight points in the third quarter only to have Minnesota counter with six or seven straight points for more breathing room.

Minnesota too often folded in such situations earlier this season.

“I think for us it was just about continuing to try to find that chemistry with each other, get more practice time in, getting more games in, and putting ourselves in difficult situations really kind of brought us together,” Jefferson said.

Tina Charles led Phoenix with 26 points and Diana Taurasi had 23.

Minnesota has beaten Phoenix in 18 of 21 regular-season contests since August 2015.

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