Lynx reserves have fueled team to better offensive production

There are many reasons for the Lynx’s recent surge, which has seen them win four of the past six games while being the WNBA’s most efficient offensive team in that stretch.

Aerial Powers is becoming more efficient and consistent. Point guard Moriah Jefferson is getting more comfortable with the team. The Lynx have been able to continue their more spread-out offensive approach even with the return of center Sylvia Fowles from a knee injury.

Here’s another: The play of Lynx reserves.

Over the last six games the Lynx bench is No. 1 in the league in points (31.8), field goals made (11.7), assists (8.0) and rebounds (16.0) per game. The bench is second in overall field goal percentage (51.1) and fourth in three-point shooting (41.8) in that stretch.

“They’ve been so pivotal for us,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “They’ve been, in some ways, kind of our rock with the consistency. They just play really well together.”

The Lynx depth has improved with the return of backup center Natalie Achonwa and the return of Fowles and power forward Damiris Dantas, which allowed Jessica Shepard to come off the bench.

In the past six games Achonwa has averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds, Shepard 8.0 and 7.5. Backup point guard Rachel Banham has averaged 10.2 points and 2.3 assists; Banham has scored in double figures the past two games.

Reeve has said that often the reserves move the ball better — and move better without the ball — than the starters.

“They do simple things,” Reeve said. “I think someone like Natalie is a ball-mover. And it’s not just because she has the ball in her hands, it’s the way she moves off the ball, the way she dictates and tells people where to go. Everybody talks about communicating on defense. But that group does a great job of communicating on offense. So it’s easy for them.”

Back in town

Lynx forward Napheesa Collier, who gave birth to daughter Mila Sarah Bazzell on May 25, arrived in the Twin Cities on Tuesday night and will be at Wednesday’s game.

Any return to action is weeks away. But Collier’s return will allow her and the Lynx to plan the next few weeks. “I’m anxious to visit with Phee,” Reeve said. “We’re not in any hurry to get her on the court. I think the early part of her being here —– obviously it’s the All-Star break, is just getting her here, getting her acclimated, getting things set with the baby.”

Mila is the first child for Collier and her fiancé, NBA and WNBA skills coach Alex Bazzell. Collier will have a care system in place in Minneapolis.

At this point, Reeve said she doesn’t even know whether Collier will travel with the team to away games. “That’s all a part of the planning,” she said. “We have to see what makes sense. But I think having Phee around, even when she’s not on the court with us, is going to be a huge bonus for this team.”

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