MINNEAPOLIS — In the precious few minutes newly crowned MVP Sylvia Fowles sat on the bench during Game 2 of the WNBA semifinals, she allowed herself to soak up the raucous atmosphere of the University of Minnesota’s Williams Arena and marvel at just how loud 9,000 fans can get.
“You know why it’s loud, Syl?” said teammate Lindsay Whalen, a former Golden Gophers All-American. “Because it’s ‘The Barn.'”
Fowles scored 25 points to lead the Lynx to a 93-83 victory over the Washington Mystics on Thursday night, putting Minnesota up 2-0 in the best-of-five series.
Fowles made 12 of 16 shots and the Lynx shot 51 percent from the floor to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Maya Moore had 22 points and five assists, and Rebekkah Brunson added 11 points and 10 rebounds in a back-and-forth game at the old college arena affectionately nicknamed “The Barn,” where the Lynx are playing while Target Center undergoes renovations.
“When you sit on the bench, you definitely hear all the noise bouncing off the walls and the ceiling,” she said.
The fans had reason to cheer in Game 2.
Elena Delle Donne and Kristi Toliver each scored 25 points for the Mystics. Washington led by two with five minutes to go, but were outscored 20-8 the rest of the way by a Lynx team that has had the same core during their five trips to the WNBA Finals over the last six years.
“You can tell the difference between Minnesota and us,” Toliver said. “They’re a well-oiled machine.”
Fowles was given the MVP trophy about two hours before tipoff, accepting it in a tearful press conference as she reflected on 10 years in the league. While some of her teammates had trouble finding the mark in the first half, Fowles powered her way to the basket over and over again to keep the Lynx in the game.
She was never more impressive than on two straight possessions in the fourth after the Lynx fell behind 72-71. Fowles rose up to snatch two offensive rebounds in traffic, then scored through contact to put Minnesota back in front. Her second one jumpstarted a 9-0 run that put the Lynx up 82-75, and they never looked back.
“That’s why she’s the MVP,” Delle Donne said.
WHALEN COMES UP BIG
Whalen showed plenty of rust in Game 1 after missing the final 12 games of the regular season with a broken hand. But she was integral in the closing surge in Game 2, scoring on a pretty reverse layup to make it 88-78. She had nine points and seven assists after sitting most of the first half with foul trouble.
TOLIVER SHOWS UP
Toliver was just 1 for 7 in the Game 1 defeat after hitting a playoff-record nine 3s in the win over New York on Sunday. But she came out firing on Thursday night, making her first three shots and scoring 13 points in the first half. She scored nine quick points in the first half of the third quarter, but didn’t score again until the final minute of the game.
If the best-of-five series goes to a fourth game in Washington, it will be played at McDonough Arena on Georgetown’s campus, the WNBA announced. The move is necessary due to a scheduling conflict with Ed Sheeran in town that night. McDougle Arena is home to the Georgetown women’s basketball team and volleyball team.
Venue changes are a way of life in the WNBA. The Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury and Lynx have all had to change buildings in these playoffs, and the Lynx already were playing in a temporary home in the regular season due to the renovation of Target Center.
Game 3 is on Sunday in Washington.