Lynx filling void without Napheesa Collier, prepare to face Sparks

Playing without MVP-caliber forward Napheesa Collier, the Minnesota Lynx dodged a bullet in the first of consecutive games against five-win teams.

Having survived the Washington Mystics’ upset bid on Saturday in Minneapolis to end a two-game skid, the West-leading Lynx (15-6) visit the Los Angeles Sparks on Tuesday night.

Minnesota lost an early 14-point lead and had to rally from seven down in the third quarter on Saturday.

In Collier’s absence, Courtney Williams led the way against Washington on the court and off. She tied for the team lead with 17 points and added seven assists, six rebounds and two steals. She also made her presence felt during timeouts.

“That was huge for us with Phee out,” said teammate Bridget Carleton, who scored 10 of her 13 points in the second half. “Phee is usually the voice, but Courtney can step into that role.”

Collier, who is dealing with plantar fasciitis in her left foot, is fourth in the league in points (20) and rebounds (10.2) per game, third in steals (2.2) and adds 3.7 assists. She might not return before the team’s four-week Olympic break begins next week.

The Sparks (5-16) are coming off an 84-78 home loss to the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday.

The game was tied at 71-71 on a free throw by the Sparks’ Dearica Hamby with 4:17 to play, and again at 78-78 after teammate Rickea Jackson’s putback with 41.8 seconds left.

But Los Angeles missed its last four shots, all of them 3-point attempts, in losing for the ninth time in its last 10 games.

Sparks coach Curt Miller lamented an offense that couldn’t get things together.

“The execution, the spacing, the timing, the physicality … those all weren’t good enough, and still, they had a chance to win if you can outplay them for the last four minutes. But in that situation, you gotta have closers, and tonight, our team out there looked a little hesitant on who really wanted the ball,” he said.

Miller also criticized his team’s “lack of focus.”

“When you look ’em in the eye and you diagram something and they come out and they don’t know where they’re supposed to be, they don’t execute, that is a frustrating thing,” he said, adding, “If we don’t play better, if we play like we did tonight, Minnesota will beat us by 20-plus, easily.”

Hamby scored 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting and added nine rebounds against the Mercury. She is third in the league with 10.4 boards per game. Jackson finished with 22 points.

–Field Level Media